Recently in Skin And Infection Category

December 23, 2011

Another Elderly Victim Who Found the Strength to Survive Her Severe Burns

A week ago, we wrote about a 70-year-old woman who fought through physical and psychological trauma she suffered from receiving third degree burns--and fought so well that she was able to walk again, and do many things on her own, even tough doctors never thought it would be possible.

Well, we have an even more unbelievable burn survivor story to share with you. Last month in the Morning Sun newspaper serving central Michigan, a writer chronicled the experience of Evelyn Clark, a 79-year-old who was burned in a gasoline fire in July 2011 and nearly died a few times since then. But Evelyn has recovered, and she spent what she calls "an extra special" Thanksgiving with her husband Jim, plus her children and her grandchildren at her home in Weidman, Michigan.

After being burned outside her home while pouring just a bit of gasoline in a barrel to start a controlled fire, Evelyn was rushed to at Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus in Grand Rapids. She suffered third degree burns on nearly 30 percent of her body, and then she developed pneumonia and another life-threatening condition while she was undergoing more than one skin graft.

Her daughter Colleen knew the burns were very bad when her mother declined pain medication--because her nerves were burned away, so she was feeling no pain. This is a very bad sign.

Evelyn does not remember much after arriving at Spectrum, where she was showered to remove dead skin. Then, donated skin was used to cover Evelyn's burns until skin grafts could be taken from her legs. "Thank goodness for people who are willing to donate organs, even skin," Colleen said. "The body rejects it but it serves its purpose [until the skin heals]."

Evelyn had burns on her right arm, chest and face. She was hospitalized for six weeks, and at one point was not expected to live because she contracted methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium that causes infections that are very hard to treat. Then, pneumonia set in.

Evelyn was put on a ventilator and taken to intensive care for five days. all throughout her hospital stay, though, Evelyn received not just the support of her family but also more than 150 cards from well-wishers, which is important for the psychological aspect of healing from burn wounds.

Fortunately, once Evelyn was placed on strong antibiotics, she started to recuperate and in a few days was out of intensive care and back in a room in the burn unit.

After spending several days in the hospital, physicians performed skin grafts, which were very painful, Evelyn said.

After being released from Spectrum, Evelyn spent 10 days at Masonic Pathways in Alma in rehabilitation. Once Evelyn went home, doctors told Colleen that Evelyn recovered because she is active and in good physical condition--and because she had people around her to keep her in a positive frame of mind.

Evelyn is thankful that she is still alive and that her family, friends, and local churches stood by her, and is thankful for all the prayers that were offered. She is now taking water aerobics classes and has become famous in the town.

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

August 9, 2011

A Survivor of Severe Burns Beats the Odds and Gets Back to Living


A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle offered up the amazing story of Derek Thomas, a 19-year-old athlete who for the past year has endured indescribable pain during the process of healing from third-degree burns so severe that he was given a 1 percent chance of survival by doctors.

But he has made it through the ordeal, and is working not only on getting stronger but also on becoming just another person with a normal daily routine, which is a blessing too many of us take for granted.

One day in August 2010, Derek sat in an SUV that was returning him home to San Diego from athletic training in the mountains. As he dozed off, the driver swerved the SUV, and it skidded across lanes of traffic, rolled over, and grinded along on its side. It then burst into flames.

When Derek arrived by emergency jet at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, he had third-degree burns across more than 85 percent of his body.

The hospital doctors had seen terrible cases before: firefighters burned on the job, students burned in chemistry labs, toddlers scalded with boiling soup. But Derek's case was among the worst--his burns penetrated to the muscle, threatening to shut down his kidneys and liver. He also could have started bleeding uncontrollably at any time.

For the next four months, Derek lay in a medically-induced coma to spare him excruciating pain. Every inch of his burned skin had to be scraped off to protect him from infection. His body swelled to more than twice its normal size.

Derek's parents and two sisters sat in a small waiting room during each of the many surgeries. Doctors had to peel skin from the few areas where Derek wasn't burned (his inner thighs and lower abdomen), stretch the skin with a machine, and then graft it a little bit at a time onto Derek's body.

Every few days, doctors repeated the process, trying to fight against infection. Derek's fever often reached 105 degrees. He also took in 7,000 calories a day through a tube, which is how much his body needed just to stay alive. He still lost more than 60 pounds over the months in a coma.

But about four months after the accident, Derek started to emerge from the coma. He learned to swallow again, and to tighten his left hand. He also learned to speak using a special tube. And on December 11 he spoke his first three words: "Happy Birthday, Mom." His family was overjoyed.

After five months, Derek was no longer in critical condition. He was alert enough to ask about his girlfriend Amanda, who was also riding in the SUV when it crashed. His parents had to tell him that she had died, which caused Derek so much psychological stress that it threatened his physical recovery.

His family and mental-health specialists helped him with the grief, but even today, it hurts Derek too much to discuss Amanda, his girlfriend. But Derek often talks to her, and he talks to God. "I channel my bad thoughts toward Him. I look to Him," he said. "It's not easy, but I try."

For Derek, the hardest part is finally over. But he will face difficult issues for the rest of his life. Here is just one of them: Before the accident, Derek was a very good-looking boy, said his friends. Now, he will never look anything like he did before the accident--but his inner strength plus counseling will help him make peace with his new appearance.

In fact, Derek's recovery will last for the rest of his life. But Derek the survivor is an inspiration to others who are severely burned. As they endure the physical and emotional pain of their injuries, other burn survivors have Derek's outstanding example to look to when they need strength.

February 24, 2010

Skin And Infection

One of the important functions of the skin is to protect the body against infection. The skin is the first line of defense against infection. Infection happens when harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi enter the body and replicate. The skin protects against infections through the following mechanisms:


  1. It acts like a covering and a barrier that prevent the entrance of harmful organisms.

  2. The continuous shedding of the outermost cells of the skin leading to the shedding of these organisms with them. Some bacteria live on our skin but can't enter the skin as long as it is healthy. An adult sheds more than 40,000 skin cells a minute.

  3. The skin has the ability to secrete compounds that kill or prevent the growth of the harmful organisms. Sweat and oil produced in the dermis combine to form a protective barrier on the surface of the skin, it is called the acid mantle, and it is useful in providing a protective barrier against temperature and wind. The acidity of the acid mantle inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi that may be present on the surface of the skin and neutralizes foreign chemicals before they can damage the skin

There are certain things that can be done to decrease the risk of or prevent infection like keeping the hands clean by washing them regularly, avoid sharing personal things with others such as towels and razors, taking care of cuts, wounds and scratches by keeping them clean and protected. If the skin around the wound becomes red, warm, swollen, increasingly painful, begins to drain a yellow or greenish fluid, have an odor, reopen of a closed wound, feel feverish; a wound infection may be present and medical care should be sought.

The skin has an amazing ability to heal wounds, the rate of healing varies depending on the severity of the wound, for superficial wounds they may be repaired rapidly by simple migration of skin cells over the defect, for deeper wounds it involves more complicated processes which are blood coagulation, inflammation, re-epithelialization, wound contraction and new tissue synthesis and remodeling.

It's important to take care of our skin and keep it healthy; if it starts getting dry or cracking we should apply moisturizers to keep it soft, also eating a well balanced diet helps insure that the body gets all the vitamins needed to maintain a healthy skin.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.