Young burn victim finds healing thanks to tissue donor  |  May 20, 2011

Devin was a typical 12-year-old: an active boy who loved to play soccer and spend time with his friends. Unfortunately, an accident put Devin’s life on pause.

On a Sunday morning at church, Devin was pouring a cup of coffee when the cup slipped and he spilled the coffee on his arm. “When it spilled on my arm, my long-sleeve shirt started clinging to my skin, and my skin was bubbling on my hand,” said Devin. The hot coffee immediately took the skin off from the bottom of his thumb, to the middle of his forearm.

Devin was rushed to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with second degree burns. “They wrapped up my arm, put chemical water on it to cool it and dumped it in a tub, which made it very numb. They also gave me pain killers that put me asleep for a few hours,” explained Devin.

Following treatment at the emergency room, Devin was referred to the Joseph M Still Burn Center at WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell, Georgia where he remembers noticing that everyone’s burns were so much more severe than his own. Within hours, he was taken into surgery where the doctors removed the burned skin and placed allograft skin on top of it. Allograft skin is a gift of life from a deceased human donor. The days following consisted of a lot of sleep and saltine crackers, but it was the donor skin that really helped in the healing process. The proteins in the donor skin were ideal to help to heal the burn and encourage Devin’s body to regenerate new skin.

Following his surgery, Devin had zero complications with infection. “According to his doctors, Devin’s healing was amazing,” said his mother, Angie. The donor skin was kept on for about a month, after which the doctors were able to take it off because Devin’s own skin was regenerating itself. Shortly after the surgery he was already re-growing a little bit of hair on the arm, which was a strong sign of how far along he was in the healing.

While Devin was able to finally keep his arm unwrapped, it was a couple months before he could get it wet. When he was finally able to get the arm wet again it was an important milestone for Devin. A family trip to Hawaii had been planned five months before the accident, and Devin was cleared for water right before the trip. He was delighted to take advantage of the ocean, scuba diving, snorkeling and even was able to hold his breath underwater for almost a minute. A personal record.

Devin’s note to the family of his tissue donor sums up how thankful he is for their gift. “I am writing to thank you for the kind and generous gift of tissue donation from your loved one. I am so sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that your decision to donate has changed my life in a very positive way. I needed a tissue transplant because I burned myself with coffee. Since the transplant I have been able to play and run around a little more. For this I am grateful to you and your loved one. My family and I will remember your act of kindness and generosity.”

Devin has never needed any additional skin and you wouldn’t even notice that anything happened to his arm today. He is a busy 13-year-old and is looking forward to his first missionary trip to New York City in July.

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