Saturday, June 26, 2010

Great Respect for Burn Victims

**Warning: some things described here are pretty graphic**

In my anatomy class we are talking about the integumentary system (skin, nails, hair, etc.). There is a lot of memorization involved. We got on a tangent about scars and plastic surgeons and how they have to know how and where to cut people so that as little scarring as possible will occur.

Scars are basically a great accumulation of collagen, which is very thick, very strong connective tissue. We then starting talking about burn victims. As far as I understand it, for third degree burn victims, all the top layers of skin are burned away and all that is left to grow back are the thick collagen layers. The problem is that the collagen doesn't allow for much circulation. Without blood circulation the burned area will become gangrenous and could cause death very soon. To account for this, doctors have to open up the wounds to allow for blood to reach the area.

Can you imagine this? The doctor has to go to the burn site and scrape and cut away the collagen. My teacher said that the tool they use resembles a cheese grater. Then the wound must be wrapped and let allowed to heal for a day. Then the same thing happens the next day. And then the next day. Each day, the doctor has to cut away to collagen. It reminds me of the story of Prometheus. Sometimes the pain can be so intense that the patient is put in a medically induced coma, but this is definitely not ideal because movement from the patient is required for proper healing. This treatment is usually done for months until the area is ready for a skin graft. I was looking at pictures of people undergoing this procedure, called escharotomy, and then I saw a picture of a little baby having to undergo this procedure. After that I couldn't look at any more pictures. That happens a lot to me now -- I am fascinated by medical procedures until I see babies having to undergo them.

I imagine that this would feel like torture. Literal torture. I can't even imagine how painful this would be. Some burn victims have most of their body covered by the burns. One thing is for sure: I will definitely think differently about burn victims from now on.


Kathy Haynie said...

I have read about this, and I agree, it would be torture.

Lisa Lou said...

Did you see that "Mormon Message" about Stephanie Nielsen? Very moving and she is going through this right now and was actually put into a coma because of the procedure. Very hard to imagine and think about.