The Tragedy of A Burn

By Elamangai Pasupathi, BMedSc., medical writer

Mr. Roland is a young man in his early 30s who suffered severe burn injuries as a result of an accident that occurred at his home. He was brought in to the SJMC Emergency Department for treatment by an ambulance.

On the day of the accident, Mr. Roland had boiled a pot of water that he was going to use for his bath. He realized his father was occupying the ground floor bathroom and decided to use the bathroom upstairs instead. He was walking up the staircase he described as internally rotten due to it being an old house, when one of the steps gave way and he lost balance. As the pot hit the floor, the boiling water splashed on to Mr. Roland, giving him severe burns on more than 30% of his body.

The pain he was experiencing while waiting for the ambulance to arrive was extremely unbearable. “The nurses later told me that my pain was so bad that without painkillers, I would be unable to scream out for help, unable to touch things, unable to move, unable to think properly, unable to speak more than 2 words.”

Mr. Roland found himself being unable to move as even the slightest movement gave him excruciating pain. “The ambulance had to bring me to the hospital. My whole front of the body was burnt. Whatever I touched brought me extreme pain. I couldn’t even hold on to a pen for more than a second. One of the paramedics commented that the burns were just a few millimetres from my crucial blood vessels and that it could have stopped my breathing entirely.”

The medical officers were not able to confirm the severity of his burns at the emergency department. There wasn’t a specialist around in the immediate vicinity who was able to tend to him either. “It was only when Dr. Soma came in, that they were able to identify the severity of the burns. I had 3rd degree burns, A high percentage of the burns were on my face, ears, neck, chest, shoulders, stomach, both arms, legs and even the groin.”

While Mr. Roland was unable to open his eyes, he was able to speak to Dr. Soma. “I couldn’t open my eyes, but I heard his voice. He told me how severe my burns were and that I needed to be treated immediately. He was very clear about what was going to happen. He handled the situation with utmost confidence, no doubt or hesitation.”

Mr. Roland was brought in for surgery. Dr. Soma applied a special dressing that enhances wound healing, all over the affected areas. “It was all over my legs, hands, chest. My whole body was wrapped. I felt like a mummy.” Mr. Roland says.

Despite the grimness of the situation, Mr. Roland couldn’t help but notice how swiftly Dr. Soma had completed the surgery. “Surgery was surprisingly fast. It was unbelievable. I was given anesthesia. And then within one hour, I was out of the operation table. Honestly, I was shocked by how fast everything was over.”

Mr. Roland was still in pain. But it had reduced considerably following the surgery. “Yes, I still couldn’t move. Yes, I still couldn’t hold things. Yes, I was in pain. But in the end, I wasn’t feeling like I was burning anymore.”

He was in the hospital for 3 weeks. “Each and every day, Dr. Soma would come over and visit me in the ICU, just to double-check on me. He’d speak with me and reassure me that everything was going to be fine. He even came to the ICU at 4 o’clock in the morning once, just to check on me. He was just so professional, caring and empathetic. Even when he talked to me, he’d take at least 5-10 minutes just to speak to me. It’s not just the clinical treatment that’s important. It’s also the mental and emotional treatment as well. The doctor’s reassurance kept me calm and helped me get through tougher days.”

“There were black ashes left on my hospital bed and pillows at the Intensive Care Unit and the ward everyday as my burnt skin was falling off me.” Mr. Roland shares. As he was healing from his burn injuries, there was a constant leaking of exudate from the wounds. “At one point, my bandages had burst open from all the fluid. I then developed a high fever at around 3:45 a.m.. I was still in the ICU then. The nurses had to help me up and clean up the whole bed. I had fever on and off and an accelerated heart rate. Thankfully, Dr. Soma helped resolve that.”

Speaking about going back home after getting discharged, Mr. Roland said that though he was healing, he still had to be wheelchaired out of the hospital. “I had to use my walking stick to get into the car. I had difficulty walking. But the most important thing to me, was that I could finally move.”

Gesturing to the back of his knee, Mr. Roland explains about his scars. “Behind my left knee, there’s a huge scar. Most of my left leg is covered by the burn scar. That’s why it’s range of movement is very limited. I can move slightly but I am completely dependent on my walking stick. Honestly, I walk really slow now. A turtle is probably faster than me,” he laughs.   

Referring to his medication, he says “Dr. Soma recommended the Maxiderm lotion and Scar Repairex Ultra. That is helping me in my recovery process a lot. My skin was so burnt and blistered, it looked like bubble wrap all over my body. But the two medications that Dr. Soma prescribed me has helped my body heal and look more normal.”

“My skin is still very dark. I still have scars. But it’s slowly fading away now. I’m still on painkillers. I take one tablet a day, after food.”

Mr. Roland then took a more somber tone, “I’m very grateful for Dr. Soma. If not for him, I would not have healed as well as I have. If you ask a normal doctor, he might have asked me to stay a minimum of 2 months at the hospital. Maybe even more. But Dr. Soma helped me recover so well that within a month, I was discharged.”

Referring to his leg, Mr. Roland explains,” I’m still unable to walk. I wasn’t able to travel to work. I do office work and was on medical leave. But now, due to the Movement Control Order imposed, I can work from home. Though, I have been falling asleep a lot. I suspect it’s due to the painkillers. Doctor did mention that one of the side effects includes drowsiness. Sometimes in the middle of the day, I end up sleeping for 4-5 hours. I’ve even fallen asleep during a meal. Once, while I was still in the ward one of the nurses came to check on me. She found me asleep with food all over my mouth. I just nodded off and I didn’t even realize it.”

Regarding any concerns that might have risen during the period of his treatment, Mr. Roland acknowledged that Dr. Soma had answered all his concerns even before he could bring them up. “Possibly because he has seen so many patients, he had already anticipated the kind of questions I would have asked.”

When asked if he had anything else he wanted to share, he expressed his gratitude towards the Dr. Soma and the whole team. “Honestly, I am so thankful for Dr. Soma. He’s one of the best doctor’s I’ve ever met. It is a long distance from the ICU ward where I was admitted, and Dr. Soma’s consultation room. He would go out of his way and walk 10-15 minutes to a different building just to check up on me. The walk back would take roughly the same time. He’d take half an hour out of his own time just to make sure I’m doing well. He also made sure any explanation he gave us was thorough yet simple enough that both my mother and I could understand. All of that meant so much to me. And it definitely helped me in my recovery process.”

Mr. Roland is recovering well and has been following up with Dr. Soma. He still requires a walking aid to help him move around as he can’t fully support himself on his left leg. But his scars and mobility have been gradually improving and hopefully, he will soon be walking independently without the need for a walking aid. His positive mindset towards the whole ordeal has definitely had an impact on his healing. Despite the severity of his burns, Mr. Roland has made an impressive recovery and can be seen greeting everyone with a sunny personality and cheery smile wherever he goes.

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