Burn Survivors Discuss Their Road To Recovery At Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center

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UPDATED: Tuesday February 25, 2014 1:24 PM

Skin.  It is our largest organ.

But when it burns, doctors must graft new skin where the old skin no longer exists.

Every year, nearly 400 adults are admitted to the Ohio State Burn Center for treatment.

Zuny Alonso of Columbus is one of 1,600 outpatients.  Her arms were burned when steam from a pressure cooker spilled on her arms.

Melissa McIntyre of Mt. Gilead suffered foot burns from boiling water that spilled from a crock pot.  She said it was one of the most painful things she’s been through.

19-year old Marcus Coachman of Columbus is at the Ohio State Burn Center for frostbite on his fingers.

It is the only adult burn center in central Ohio designed to treat damaged skin.

“We’re in the business of beating the odds,” says Dr. Larry Jones of the Ohio State Burn Center.  “In almost 32 years that I've been a burn surgeon, I'm seeing patients surviving today who never would have made it 24 hours.”

Doctors say the odds of surviving a massive burn - once considered fatal- aren't anymore because of burn centers like this one.

Darren Dean of Columbus, a former car painter, tells 10TV he was working at home mixing paint chemicals when disaster struck.  “It was like a bad dream.”  Dean says the fire quickly engulfed his skin.  He suffered second degree burns on 30% of his body.

Todd Hammond has a much different story to tell.  “One day I was healthy, running around,

going to work 7 days, after that I was waking up in a coma.”

Doctors amputated his hands and feet after he suffered a rare case of Meningitis that led to gangrene.

“It's just been a blessing for me being here.”  Without the burn center, he said, he would probably be dead.

The Wexner Medical Center is a verified burn center and one so unique the government put it on stand-by after 9/11 in case adult burn victims survived the terrorist attack.

Dr. Larry Jones leads the Burn Center team.

Doctors and nurses inside the burn center talk about recovery from the inside and out because there's not just a physical recovery, there's an emotional side as well.  

“A burn is more than an injury to the skin. It is an injury of the mind. It's an injury of your social standing,” says Pastor Imani Jones.

So when the burn team meets to go over patient care, they turn to Jones for advice.

“No one calls the chaplain for good news," says Jones. 

Jones says she visits everyone who arrives on the burn center floor.  She says faith can be used as motivation for patients to keep fighting and to heal.

"Prayer doesn't necessarily give people the answers that they seek, but I think people feel grounded, connected and gives them something to hold on to," Jones says.

Burn survivors like Darren Dean say doctors and nurses inside the burn center gave him more than new skin. 

They gave him a support system to start a new life.