She Couldn’t Move Because of Abnormally Tight Skin. Here’s What Helped Her…


She Couldn’t Move Because of Abnormally Tight Skin. Here’s What Helped Her…

Nagina, 13, was born to a poor family in a rural part of Nepal with a severe form of a genetic condition called ichthyosis that affects the skin. Nagina’s parents could barely feed the family. They did not have the money for any medication, and they did not know how to treat her condition. When some horrified medical workers found her, Nagina was depressed, living in a shed, and her condition had deteriorated to the point that she could not move. Too many layers of skin had built up, and ichthyosis is also characterized by abnormally tight skin that can restrict movement.

She Couldn't Move Because of Abnormally Tight Skin. Here's What Helped Her...

What is ichthyosis?
Ichthyosis is a group of genetic disorders that affect the skin’s ability to regenerate. In ichthyosis, the skin either sheds old cells too slowly, or it produces new cells at a much faster pace than it can shed old cells. The results are the same: an accumulation of thick scaly skin.

There are several different types of ichthyosis, and the symptoms can range from relatively mild to lethal. The more severe forms of ichthyosis damage the skin to such an extent that they increase the patient’s susceptibility to infection and dehydration. Most forms of ichthyosis are rare. The exception, ichthyosis vulgaris, occurs in roughly one person out of 80 and has such mild symptoms that some patients don’t know they have it. Ichthyosis can run in families, or it can occur as a mutation.

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While ichthyosis has no cure, it can be treated. Patients need to apply moisturizers like petroleum jelly to their skin. In severe cases, like Nagina’s, the patient can spend hours every day slathering moisturizer all over their body. It’s a simple treatment – providing you can get the Vaseline.

Here's What Helped Her...

The continuation of Nagina’s story
The health care workers brought Nagina to the Hospital & Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children, where she was treated for five months. The nurses bathed Nagina and wrapped her skin in gauze soaked with Vaseline every day. She also received physical therapy to help her regain mobility, and she made friends with other disabled children.


Over the long term, though, what Nagina really needed was a life-time supply of Vaseline. The charity Direct Relief contacted the company Vaseline for the supply, and they arranged to deliver it. Nagina now attends a boarding school for disabled children run by the hospital. Her instructors describe her as “very bright” and say she has adapted well to the school.


Vaseline Healing Project
Nagina is far from the only person who needs ready access to Vaseline. A pair of American dermatologists volunteered to provide medical care to Syrian refugees seeking sanctuary in Jordan. They had anticipated that many people would have parasitic infestations like lice or scabies and had packed accordingly. Many refugees, however, proved to also have dry skin, burns or other skin problems that responded best to Vaseline.

Such experiences led Direct Relief to partner with Unilever, the maker of Vaseline, to found the Vaseline Healing Project. Established in 2015, the Project’s goal is to “heal the skin of five million people by 2020.” To that end, it works with Direct Relief to donate medical supplies to people with skin conditions in developing countries or regions devastated by war or natural disaster.

When people buy Vaseline, part of the proceeds will go to the project. People can make further donations by visiting the Project’s website and building a “virtual relief kit.” They choose from a list of medical supplies the ones they want to fund and send the appropriate amount of money. The items cost anywhere from $2.00 (Band-Aids) to $15.00 (headlamp). Unilever already provided the Vaseline in the kit.

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