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An August 15 article in the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota told the story of firefighter Austin Whitney, who is in the long and painful process of recovering from severe burns across thirteen percent of his body. He received those second degree burns and third degree burns after the Coal Canyon wildfire trapped the 22-year-old and four fellow firefighters.

What is helping Austin to make the best recovery he can is this: the power of his mind. “His spirits are just out of this world. He is in such a good mindset,” said Robert Whitney, Austin’s father, from outside the hospital room just two days after Austin was burned. “He told me that this incident isn’t going to stop him from being a firefighter.”

Austin Whitney followed in the firefighting footsteps of his father, grandfather, and aunts and uncles. This summer was his first season with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, a state firefighting agency. But Austin started fighting fires when he turned 18, joining the Pringle Volunteer Fire Department–the same department as his father and grandfather. He joined the Cascade Volunteer Fire Department the following year, and is now a co-captain. “It overjoyed me to no end,” said Austin’s father. “It excited me that he would take an interest like this.”

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In Fort Peck, Montana in late October, a fire destroyed a historic landmark restaurant in eastern Montana and the owner was hospitalized after suffering smoke inhalation.

Fort Peck’s Gateway Inn Bar and Supper Club, built in 1933, caught fire at about 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday, just as the lunch crowd was coming in. An assistant fire chief said that several customers were in the building at the time, but were able to escape.

A local sheriff also said that the restaurant owner made a near-fatal mistake by running back into the building to get some keys–that’s when he suffered smoke inhalation. Although he was listed in good condition just one day after the fire, the owner’s actions were very risky.

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After being discharged home from the hospital, a new phase of wound care starts at home. The new healing skin needs special care and consideration in which you play a major role.

Bathing: the first thing to be done before getting into a shower or a tub is to test the temperature of the water as your new skin is sensitive to extreme cold or extreme hot water and can be injured easily. Make sure that the area where bathing is taking place (shower or tub) is clean. Always look for signs and symptoms of infection of infection especially in children as they may not be able to speak. Gently wash with a clean soft towel instead of vigorously rubbing as this will lesson any discomfort associated with bathing. Use your medications as described before washing the wound if you have any open area. Continue to wash these area as directed according to the instructions that you have been given and with applying medication as directed.

Scarring: it’s very difficult to tell how much scarring will be perminant in the beginnig. People vary in their tendency to scar, some people have a greater tendency to scar than others and it’s difficult to determine how much scarring each patient will have as the amount is determend depending on the depth of the burn as well as individual basis. There are 2 types of scars, Keliod and hypertrophic scars.

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Wound care at home is one of the important factors in the continuation of wound healing. You may be discharged from the hospital with unhealed wound areas that still require wound care. Before being discharged, the social worker will have a meeting with you to discuss your discharge arrangement. According to your burn severity and your needs, you may be sent home or to a rehabilitaion facility were you will be provided with services according to your needs such as Physical therapy (PT), Occupational therapy (OT), and Speech therapy (ST).

Being discharged home after a lengthy hospital stay is one of the exciting moments for a burned victim. Your healing skin requires special attention and care. Some of the facts that you should pay attention to include:

  • Skin dryness: when the skin is burned, the oil producing glands in the skin (Sebaceous glands) will be damaged or destroyed and your skin will appear dry and scaly. Until the time some of these glands will begin functioning again, lubricants are needed. Avoid using lubricant that contains chemicals or alcohol as they may lead to skin irritation and blister formation. Use the lubricants as directed by your treating physician.
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It seems that winter has come early to the Northeast, and surely there are many people in that region who have already started using firewood and other sources of fuel to heat their homes.

However, it is very important to think and take precautions before using a fireplace or other heating unit, because it is very easy to have an accident that causes a small fire to grow out of control, and possibly cause severe burns or swift, deadly smoke inhalation because the fire is in an enclosed space–a den or some other room.

Here is just one recent example of a person being careless and causing a life-threatening situation: In mid-September in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, fire investigators determined that a man who was burned a few days before in the basement of his Brooklyn Park home had poured gasoline on wet wood inside his fireplace.

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In our last post on Wednesday, October 26, we talked about the many services offered at the new Grossman Burn Center in Phoenix, Arizona. But once a burn victim is released from a burn center like Grossman, there are still many challenges to deal with for the rest of their lives. But burn survivors can gain the confidence to move forward in their lives with the help of burn camps. In fact, every state in the U.S. has a burn camp.

Here is one example: In August 2011 a 10-year-old named Elizabeth Watson attended a burn camp in Utah, and came home feeling energized and able to better handle the complications in her life. When Elizabeth was younger, she hated the burn scars that wrapped around her legs, arms, feet and part of her head, thinking that they were so ugly. But over time, Elizabeth learned that the burn scars suffered from a propane accident when she was just 5 months old do not define who she is or how she looks. They are simply, as she says, “a part of who I am.”

Elizabeth attended the annual University Health Care Burn Camp at Camp Tracy in Mill Creek Canyon in Utah, along with 40 other young burn victims. They rode horses, went swimming, made music, and created arts and crafts over four days. All of this helped them build confidence that they can do whatever they want, and that their burn injury and scars won’t hold them back..

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In October 2011, Grossman Burn Centers announced the official opening of its new burn center in Phoenix, Arizona, at St. Luke’s Medical Center. The eight-bed unit is the fifth Grossman Burn Center, and the second outside the state of California.

GBC Medical Director Dr. Peter H. Grossman commented that “It is a privilege to partner with St. Luke’s Medical Center to bring additional state-of-the-art burn care services to Arizona. Our facility will complement Phoenix’s existing burn center by making more beds available to Arizona’s growing population, and by providing patients and referring physicians with more options for their burn treatment regimen. This is a very positive development for the Grossman Burn Centers, for St. Luke’s, and for Arizona.”

The Grossman Burn Center at St. Luke’s Medical Center provides a comprehensive suite of burn care services, from acute and reconstructive burn care, to rehabilitation and post-treatment emotional and psychological support. The center is under the direction of GBC Medical Director, Dr. Peter H. Grossman. It is managed on a day-to-day basis by Dr. Robert Bonillas and Dr. Anthony Admire, and staffed by physicians on the medical staff at St. Luke’s Medical Center trained in restorative burn care.

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On October 6, 2011, the Fire Smoke Coalition launched the first Smoke Inhalation Treatment Database for use by EMTs, first responders and medical professionals throughout the world.

In the United States, residential fires are the third leading cause of fatal injury and the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death, yet the majority of fire-related fatalities are NOT caused by severe burns–they are cause by smoke inhalation.

Despite the amount of fires in the U.S. decreasing each year, the amount of civilians dying in fires is actually increasing. For example, in 2009, 1,348,500 fires were attended by public fire departments, a decrease of 7.1 percent from the year before; however, 3,010 civilian fire deaths occurred, which is an increase of 9.3 percent.

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A few weeks ago in Kinston, NC, a utility worker was injured badly after 7,200 volts of electricity traveled through his body when he came in contact with an underground power wire. The worker, whose name was not released at press time, was working to fix a power outage when the incident happened. He was taken to the burn unit at UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill because he suffered second degree and third degree burns. One city official said the worker has second degree burns to his face and chest, and third degree burns to his arms and legs. The employee is a lineman who’s been with the city for 25 years. He was working on an underground primary line in a ditch when he was shocked.

That same week in Lake Katrine, NY, a faulty propane gas line caused a home fire that severely burned an elderly couple. The fire left the unidentified woman hospitalized in critical condition at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, with burns over 90 percent of her body. The man was taken to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla with burns on about 40 percent of his body. Neighbors trying to help the couple also suffered burns that required medical treatment.

Officials investigating the fire say it is likely that there was a leak in the line between an outdoor propane tank and the stove inside the home, which caused an explosion.

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In Las Vegas in early October, a casino employee was lucky to have survived after suffering smoke inhalation after a fire started inside his restaurant’s grease duct.

Firefighters quickly doused the fire a little before 9 a.m. on a Sunday at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort, and damage was confined to a small mechanical room. And the local fire chief credited the design of the duct system for containing the fire. The Wynn resort is about 10 years old, so it has a very modern design that helps with fire prevention so that a small fire cannot spread easily and become a large fire that threatens any more lives.

On the other hand, many older restaurants around the country are not designed in the same way. As a result, they have a much higher chance of being engulfed in a rapidly-spreading fire if their grease ducts and air ducts are not cleaned regularly. Restaurant managers have an obligation to make sure this cleaning happens enough so that there is only a small chance of a grease fire growing out of control.