News / Health

Liberian Refugee Gets New Face After Devastating Acid Burn

The number of acid attacks against women is growing in many South Asian nations. But the crime that causes human skin to melt is not limited to Asia or to women. A Liberian man, who was the victim of a surprise attack almost two years ago, is recovering at a Baltimore, Maryland hospital.

Henry Cole has lost count of how many times he’s been wheeled into surgery. In the last two years, Cole has had more than a dozen procedures. And there are more to come. But he has no complaints.

“The Lord has been paving my way… I always met the good doctors, the good nurses, the good friends," said Cole.

When VOA first met Cole in the spring of 2012, he wore a mask to help heal his facial wounds. But the emotional trauma that led him on this journey was still fresh.
 
"I tell you the truth when I saw myself back in Liberia, I didn’t want to continue living," said Cole, who was the police traffic commander in Monrovia, Liberia.

Surprising tragedy

In April of 2011, he was the victim of an attack that seemed to come out of nowhere, in the middle of the night.

"...only to come out of sleep in shock that some liquid was on my chest and it started to burn," said Cole.

The liquid was acid, poured on by an intruder who is yet to be found.

"The acid entered in my nose, in my mouth and in my ear and then I cried out for help," he remembers.

Cole was taken to a local hospital.
 
"For two weeks there, my condition was getting worse. I was in pain," he said.

Cole credits his faith with his will to live.

"After some time and counseling, I got to know there is a God who watched over us and preserves our lives. So I still have a second chance of living. So I must carry on," he said.

Requesting help

With the help of friends, Cole left Liberia for America, ending up at Johns Hopkins Burn Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

His doctors remember the first time they saw him.

"Literally just walked into the office and asked for help," said Dr. Stephen M. Milner at the Johns Hopkins Burn Center.

"His chest, abdomen, arms were all scarred," said Dr. Leigh Ann Price.

And that began the long process of creating Cole’s new face, a face transformed bit by bit.

"One of the first things we did, in the first operation, was to make him a nostril on the left side," said Milner.

"It's very similar to building a building. And for a burn patient, the canvas is their skin," said Price.

"We covered it with what we call aloe graft, which is cadaver skin. So we can leave this on for a week, and we take it off before it becomes rejected," said Milner. "And then what we used in this case was a material called Integra. It's a synthetic material that mimics the skin.

And then after three weeks we can peel off the top layer and we can take some skin from a different part of his body that isn’t burnt, and we use that to cover."

New face

Between surgeries, Cole recuperates at a friend’s home. He watches African movies and dreams of the day when his daughter will join him in America

Cole already feels blessed, thanks to the doctors who showed him his new face for the first time.

"He was in the tub, and I asked him if he wanted to see his face," said Price.

"As soon as they brought the mirror, and I look at it," said Cole.

"And then he reaches up, and he's got a tear coming out of his eye," said Price.

"I sprung on her and gave her a big hug," said Cole.

"He apparently liked it," said Cole with a smile.

And when he sees his former self, he is confident that he is well on his way.

"I’m not far from being like this [his image in a photo]. I’m very close," he said.
 
But in the meantime, Henry Cole is starting to enjoy his life again.

"Now I’m happy," he said.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
February 05, 2013 4:00 PM
This is outragious see.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs