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Firefighters Get Preview Of Burn Center They Helped Fund

Firefighters Get Preview Of Burn Center They Helped Fund

The Sacramento Bee via YellowBrix

August 27, 2010

SACRAMENTO, CA – Dozens of regional firefighters Thursday got a peek at UC Davis’ new facility for burn victims – a center they helped get built and a replacement for the facility where some of them were patients themselves.

The renamed Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center, which will begin receiving patients in late September, was financed in part by $1 million raised by the nonprofit Firefighters Burn Institute, which includes the fire departments of West Sacramento, Sacramento city and county, Elk Grove and Folsom.

Another $1 million has been pledged by the firefighters group for the new burn center, according to Carole Gan, spokeswoman for UC Davis Medical Center.

Firefighters raised funds primarily through their annual “Fill the Boot” campaign, where they stand at busy intersections with a large fireman’s boot, asking drivers and passers-by to drop in donations.

The gleaming new facility is a shiny contrast to UC Davis Medical Center’s existing, 1980s-era burn unit on Stockton Boulevard. The center is part of UCD’s new $425 million surgery and emergency services pavilion, which also opens to patients next month.

The old burn unit was “run-down and dreary,” said Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burn surgery at UC Davis Medical Center. “Right now we have space; the rooms are twice as large.”

Greenhalgh and Dr. Tina Palmieri, director of the UC Davis Regional Burn Center, helped design the new 13,000-square-foot facility.

Among its upgraded features: a hydrotherapy room with three water nozzles dropping from the ceiling that can gently spray patients to remove damaged tissue. In the old unit, that process took place in a 500-gallon therapy tank, similar to a bathtub.

“Instead of bathing patients in their own water,” said nurse manager Leonard Sterling, “hydrotherapy brings down the bacterial load and helps wounds heal faster.”

About double the size of the old burn unit, the new center includes 12 rooms, each equipped with infrared heating panels to keep patients warm and a ventilation system to keep the room sterile.

It’s easy to understand why firefighters have poured their efforts into the burn unit, both professionally and personally.

On July 5, when Sacramento firefighter Scott McKinney opened the door of an Oak Park home filled with leaking gas, the house exploded. He was sent to the UC Davis Medical Center Burn Unit.

He doesn’t consider himself a burn victim, even though the skin on his hands and face was “falling off.” “I just got kind of banged up,” he said. “But now I’ve been on the other end, and if I can help here, I will.”

Former firefighter Duane Wright was treated at the burn unit about 20 years ago and still remembers it vividly.

He was working a forest fire when the wind changed direction and blew flames his way. Wright’s face, arms, back and legs were so severely burned that when he arrived at the hospital, he remembers being read his last rites.

At 21, he said, “I had the firefighter mentality.” As soon as he recovered, he returned to firefighting.