Health Beat: Surviving an acid attack: Healing with lasers

Health Beat: Surviving An Acid Attack

MIAMI - An acid attack left Tanya St. Arnauld suffering with burns on most of her body. Now, new advances in lasers are melting away her scars and giving her her life back.

"More than the pain, I could remember the smell of burning flesh," said St. Arnauld, who remembers vividly when her then-boyfriend attacked, spraying corrosive acid in her face. "I said, 'Oh my God, he's going to kill me. I have to get out of here."

She escaped, but not before the entire bottle of acid had been dumped on her, burning 70 percent of her body.

"In the beginning, you see holes in your body and you see tissue and it's so gruesome," St. Arnauld explained.

She lost huge chunks of hair and much of her mobility multiple skin grafts left mangled scars.

"I was thinking to myself, I'm just 29 and I'm a total handicap," St. Arnauld said.

But looking at her now, you can see that hope would come when she found one of the top scar experts in the U.S., Dr. Jill Waibel.

"Most doctors don't even know, let alone patients that we have these great technologies," said Waibel, Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute, assistant professor, Miller School of Medicine, Miami University and chief of dermatology, Baptist Hospital, Miami, Florida.

A second laser, known as Lumenis UltraPulse, penetrates deeply into the skin, allowing steroids and other topical treatments to be delivered where it's needed most.

"In this case, it's Kenilog, which is going to help synergistically flatten the scar," said Waibel, who noted that the trick is getting to the scars early. "We've found the sooner you get the lasers on the burn scars, we think we can actually prevent the scars from forming."

For St. Arnauld, it's a welcome pain.

"I'm anxious to suffer again every month," she said. "It's weird to say, but I love this pain now because it's so beautiful after."

St. Arnauld wants to try to begin rebuilding her hairstyling career that was effectively put on hold as a result of her injuries. Yet more daunting is the prospect of facing her alleged attacker in court during his trial, which is currently scheduled for August.

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