Jennifer Lawrence, you are forgiven

Several years ago at my kids' urging, I read The Hunger Games  books and loved them. Not only were they a good read, I saw a wonderful connection for ReSurge.  In the final book, The Mocking Jay, the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen is engulfed by flames during a battle. In her world, Panem, they ease her scars and suffering by replacing her skin, because they can

In our world that doesn't happen.  In fact in most of the developing world, there is no acute care for burns.  Burns kill more women in Africa than HIV and malaria combined, but the first world does not know this.  If untreated, a burn scar will contract; a child burned at the elbow, for example, will never be able to move his joint again.  A plastic surgeon is needed to release the contracture and add in a skin graft to enable mobility. The photo below is an untreated contracture.

Similarly, I have seen  a young woman in Vietnam whose face fused to her chest after a cooking burn went up her torso.  When our doctors released that contracture and she could look into her mother's face once again, there wasn't a dry eye in the recovery room.  Burn victims go though so much, but there can be happy endings.  Although it took years of surgeries, a boy in Bangladesh who once could not move his arms is now  a young man en route to a career in healthcare thanks to ReSurge.


I had visions of a great Public Service Announcement (PSA) that would play before the movie.  Jennifer Lawrence could look solemnly into the camera and say "In Panem, they could replace my skin, but in our world we need reconstructive surgery to transform lives. " The challenge was making the connection to Jennifer for her to see the affinity between ReSurge and the climax of the trilogy.

Through WPO, I was able to get to the President of CAA, Jennifer's agents.  He couldn't make it happen, but he agreed to set me up with the CAA Foundation, the channel through which his stars coordinate philanthropic efforts.  There were several conference calls, and after each one the participants seemed increasingly in favor of the idea.   Finally,  the  foundation was willing to intercede for me with Jennifer's agent.  I begged to be able to talk to the agent directly, since I knew I could sell the concept better then the well intentioned foundation staff could, (CEOs are great sales people after all...) but they assured me they were the ones that had to handle those discussions.

Ultimately, it never happened.  It was not clear to me whether the agent passed on it or whether Jennifer did, but I was crestfallen. Yes, I was asking a celebrity to lend her name to something, but the connection was so explicit, the potential reach so global, and the impact it could have had on the visibility of this issue in the world was so profound, I just thought it would happen.  (CEOs are often optimists too...)

So part of me was not enthusiastic about going to the final movie in The Hunger Games saga. Imagine my surprise, when that moment I had envisioned for so long was nearly left out of the movie.  You got a sense that Katniss was injured, but no mention was made of the massive conflagration that incinerated her skin and the subsequent medical procedure to replace it.  To make sure I was not crazy, I went back and reread the ending after the movie, and yes, my recollection was accurate, but artistic license had eliminated this element of the story for moviegoers.

Ironically, the fact that the directors chose to minimize the burn back story is illustrative of the global burn crisis in reality.  It is a grim subject that is neglected in many ways by the global public heath system.  The pictures aren't pretty and in fact can be quite painful to see, as aptly demonstrated by the first photo in this post.  Many foundations are not interested because burns are not "a disease state."  Building awareness of the issue remains a challenge, despite the fact that every 3 seconds someone is severely burned.

So maybe Jennifer and her agent knew the filmmaker's direction nullified my PSA idea. Maybe it wasn't the cause to which she wanted to attach her name. That said, I am hopeful that at some point we will find a celebrity willing to use the power of his/her stardom to help us combat this global health crisis. Did I mention I am an optimist?

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