Helping in the Recovery

It’s a call no one wants to receive. When Tanya was told that her husband Phil had been injured in a serious building fire, she rushed to meet him at the Emergency Department of the local hospital in St. Catharines. Phil had suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to 50 per cent of his body.

Nick Morrison, Occupational Therapist

Nick Morrison, Occupational Therapist

After being stabilized, he was flown to Hamilton General Hospital for specialized care in the Burn Unit. Phil underwent a number of skin grafts, with skin from his back and stomach grafted onto his hands, arms and legs. Pressure garments were used to help control scarring and promote healing.

“Then I fell into a coma for about a month,” he says. “When I came out of it, I received quite a bit of respiratory assistance and sedation for pain.”

Phil received care from the many specialists in the Burn Unit’s multidisciplinary team, including therapists who helped him regain movement in his body.

“We began working immediately with Phil through passive range-of-motion exercises,” says Nick Morrison, Occupational Therapist in the Burn Trauma Unit. “For several hours every day, we worked toward the goal of regaining his previous level of movement and independence.”

Nick was impressed with Phil’s resilience during such a difficult time: “Rehabilitation from an extensive burn injury is a very painful process, but Phil never complained about his pain or his situation. He was always set on getting through the hard work in order to get home and back to his daily life.”

A year after the fire, Phil continues his recovery at home and frequently visits the Burn Unit for appointments with the various specialists.

“The pain isn’t too bad any more, but my scars are itchy all the time.”

Phil is eager to return to a more active and independent lifestyle, but the limited use of his arms is proving to be a challenging barrier. He has heterotopic ossification in both elbows, which is an abnormal growth of extra bone that is triggered as part of the body’s response to physical trauma. Due to the extra bone growth, Phil cannot bend his left elbow at all and his right elbow has only partial range of motion. He is scheduled to receive surgery to remove the extra bone, which should result in greater functionality of both arms, and less discomfort.

“The hardest part of this experience has been not being able to return to work or be independent,” according to Phil. “I just take it one day at a time. I draw my strength from Tanya and my family.”

Every day sees Phil making progress in his recovery, and he realizes that “things could have been much worse” had it not been for the care he received at The General.

“Everybody at the Burn Unit was phenomenal, going above and beyond. They saved my life, and I see how important it is for them to have donor support so patients like me can receive such amazing care.”

View a video on Phil and the Burn Unit below, and consider donating to Hamilton General Hospital Foundation by clicking here.