A woman from India maimed by an acid attack as a 13-year-old found both medical treatment and a new family in Ohio at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati. The crime happened in Prerna Gandhi’s hometown of Rohtak, India. It left severe burns over 40 percent of her body, including the right side of her face.
At 16 years old, Gandhi was accepted for treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati where they specialize in pediatric plastic surgery and burn reconstruction. During Gandhi’s stay with a host family, she met a neighbor that lived down the street named Graci Doll. The girls became fast friends and she persuaded Mount Notre Dame High School to allow Gandhi to audit classes.
Gandhi returned to India last summer to see her family for the first time in two years. She returned to the U.S. in December on a student visa and began taking classes at the University of Cincinnati’s Blue Ash campus last month.
Gandhi’s previous host family moved out of state but Doll insisted she live with her and her parents, Scott and Melissa Doll, who took Gandhi in to allow her to continue her treatments in Cincinnati. “She’s a gift,” said Scott Doll. “We look at her as a blessing. We have learned things about the world that we could never have known without her. “Acid attacks are common in India, often aimed at women when men feel jilted or to settle family disputes.”
The day of the attack, Gandhi had persuaded a friend to let her drive her friend’s scooter home from school. As they were stopped in traffic, two older boys approached on a motorcycle and the acid was thrown. The crime mystified authorities and Gandhi’s family until eventually police learned Gandhi’s friend — who was supposed to be driving the scooter — was the intended target. Two men were sentenced to life in prison; a jealous female neighbor of Gandhi’s friend hired them was sentenced to a year behind bars.
The acid caused third-degree full-thickness burns over 40 percent of Prerna’s body. For months after the attack, she lay in a hospital in Rohtak and had more than two dozen surgeries to graft skin over the burns. At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati, she has gone through several additional procedures, including surgeries to reduce rigid neck scarring, construction of a new eyebrow and laser treatment to smooth burn scars. She will continue to receive treatment until she is 21.
Graci Doll, also 18, said meeting Gandhi has changed her perspective on life. “Before I met her, I wasn’t really aware of what was going on in the world. I didn’t know about the hardship,” Doll said. “She has opened my eyes. Now I want to do something to help the world.”
“This attack has made me into the woman I am today, a strong, independent young woman who wants to make a difference,” said Gandhi.
Gandhi hopes to stay in the U.S. and get a degree in International Business. She is now an advocate for women who have suffered from acid attaches and wants the world to know about the injustice.