Special Assignment: Still Saving

News 12 at 11 o'clock, November 13, 2008

This article is Part Three in a series about the Joseph M. Still Burn Center.

The Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta has been in the spotlight a lot this year, especially after the celebrity plane crash in Columbia and the explosion near Savannah.

However, doctors and nurses treat everyday people there every single day, and News 12 can take you into the operating room for the first time to show you how they save lives.

It's the largest burn center in the country and the third largest in the world. It's only getting bigger, now in the middle of a 55 million dollar expansion project that will save even more people like Danny Lister.

"I could see everything, you know. The skin broke. The blood."

Thinking back to that day , Danny Lister remembers everything too. He was working on a car in Greer, South Carolina when something sparked. Flames ignited a bucket of gasoline, and he knew he had to get it out of the shop.

So, he carried it.

"I used to think I had a strong pain tolerance, but this has been pretty rough on me, " sighs Danny.

Danny literally caught on fire.

Once he put himself out, he had second and third degree burns every where but his face, chest, and back.

His road to recovery is a long one, like a lot of people who end up at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center.

Dr. Fred Mullins, head of the burn center, says it's a special place because "we use a team approach. It takes everybody out there working together to make this work."

Dr. Mullins and his team see 3,000 in-patients and 18,000 out-patients every year. That includes celebrities like former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and DJ AM. They also treat victims of accidents that grab headlines, like the Imperial Sugar Refinery near Savannah.

Most of the time they work what some call miracles out of the national spotlight and under the big ones in each of the operating rooms.

It's not just doctors and nurses saving his life. Burn patients need a lot of blood, and that blood comes from donors in this area.

They also need skin. After the team cleans and removes his damaged skin, Danny gets new, temporary skin. It comes in packets, like folded sheets of paper. Then, it soaks in a solution -- and is ready for Danny.

His legs become a patchwork quilt of many different donors with many different skin tones.

Not only do doctors put human skin, cadaver skin, on burn wounds, they're also using pig skin and silver. Silver is one of the oldest antibiotics.
It can protect patients from infection. Dr. Mullins explains "we can put it on a patient now and leave it for seven days, and they can go home and come back, so we've actually shifted a lot of our care to an out-patient basis."

Still, the burn center manages to stay full of in-patients, and with burn centers in Tennessee and Mississippi closing, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center is only getting busier, treating more and more people like Danny. "I can't imagine not having a place to come to. Burnt, look the way I look, and disfigured and hurt. And if you had no place to go to, what would you do?"


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