New Medical Device: Skin Cell Gun

It’s not often that I’m impressed by new medical devices. Many times, they’re just refined from old devices with a few new bells and whistles.

This might be different.

It is difficult to treat significant burns– particularly when grafting the skin is required. There are few options available other than taking sheets of skin from the patient’s own body or growing new skin cells on sheets which takes weeks. The problem with the wait time is that your skin is not only your largest organ but also your primary defense against infectious agents entering your body. This is often what burn patients die from– infections while their wounds heal.

That might all change and change dramatically with The Skin Gun. They take the patient’s own skin cells and grow them in a water solution and in a matter of hours grow enough to then spray the skin cells onto the injured area.

The video is impressive as the new skin doesn’t even appear to scar down which is another nemesis of burn treatment, but I would like to see some before and after photos of the same patient for me to truly buy into the claimed results. However, if this process can do what they profess– it will revolutionize care for burn patients.

Check out the video. What do you think?

Author Question: Burn and Crush Injuries

Amitha Knight returns to give her medical insight in this reader question.

Welcome back, Amitha!

Q:

I am writing a novel and understand that you give medical information online which I would be really grateful for.  The two main characters in my current book are hurled out of a burning bus which has smashed into a building after going out of control.  They land on concrete.  One of those characters has been in the smoke-filled bus about 15 minutes.

I would appreciate it if you could tell me the following;
1) What type of injuries would they have received, burns, fractures, concussion etc and what procedures are followed by medics who turn up at such accidents. What equipment would they use? 
2) I want one of the characters to be in intensive care for about 3 days and then be allowed onto the ward, what type of follow up treatment could she receive, what machines would she be attached to etc.
3)I want the second character to be unconscious for about three weeks and then wake up with temporary amnesia.  Is this plausible and what treatment would he receive while he’s
unconscious …. what machinery would he be attached to.
  
Thank you in advance for your help!!!
M.G.
Amitha says:
I will help you the best that I can. My specialty was pediatrics and not intensive care or emergency medicine, so keep that in mind.
1) What type of injuries would they have received, burns, fractures, concussion etc and what procedures are followed by medics who turn up at such accidents.  What equipment would they use. 
The types of injuries sustained could range from anything from a few bruises to severe cranial fractures and multiple broken bones. When medics show up, they will place a neck collar in case there are spinal injuries and basically follow the “ABC” rules for emergency medicine. (some links to read more about this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABC_(medicine)) This means if the patient isn’t breathing, they’ll make sure there is no obstruction, then they will intubate the patient as necessary. They will also start IV fluids and take them immediately to the hospital. What they would do *exactly* would depend on the extent and severity of the injuries. For fiction purposes, I would think hard before going into too much medical detail.
2) I want one of the characters to be in intensive care for about 3 days and then be allowed onto the ward, what type of follow up treatment could she receive, what machines would she be attached to etc.
This depends on the type an extent of the injuries. if there was a perforation to the lung, they may have a chest tube. They probably can’t get up and thus would need a foley catheter for urine. they would definitely have some kind of IV fluids attached. This website has some good information about smoke inhalation injuries: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/smoke_inhalation/article_em.htm
3)I want the second character to be unconscious for about three weeks and then wake up with temporary amnesia.  Is this plausible and what treatment would he receive while he’s
unconscious …. what machinery would  he be attached to.
This person who is unconscious might be intubated for at least some of that time, which means they would have a ventilator machine in the room in addition to everything I said in #2. As far as amnesia, there is a blog post on Jordyn Redwood’s blog that may help with this: http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/08/remember-me-use-of-amnesia-in-fiction.html 
Her website is a great place in general for information like this!
I hope this helps.

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 Amitha Knight is a former pediatric resident turned writer of middle grade and young adult fiction. She’s also a blogger, a book lover, an identical twin, and a mom. Follow her on twitter @amithaknight or check out her website: http://www.amithaknight.com/. 

Burn Injuries

One thing that has changed recently is how medical professionals talk about burns or burn terminology.

Burns used to be classified as follows:

  • First Degree: Skin is pink, but no fluid-filled blisters.
  • Second Degree: Skin had fluid-filled blisters of varying sizes.
  • Third Degree: Multiple layers of the skin are involved. There may be charring of the wound. The picture would denote, at the very least, a third degree burn.
  • Fourth Degree: Charring and burning that involves muscle and bone.

Now, we refer to burns as partial thickness or full thickness. Partial thickness would include first and second degree burns. Full thickness would be considered third and fourth degree burns.

Here is a good resource that discusses the difference. 

Treatment of burns depends on location, size and depth. 

Very simply, localized burns are usually treated by cleaning, leaving blisters intact, slathering them with triple antibiotic ointment and then dressing them.

Not all burns need to be followed up by a specialist at a burn clinic but burns that involve the hands or feet (because of functionality), the face (for cosmetic reasons or if they could hinder the senses), or genitalia (including nipples) are usually referred for further care.

Also, burn injuries need to be estimated on what percentage of the skin is involved. Based on the percentage– a patient can be referred for follow-up or flat out admitted if the burn injury is severe. You may have heard this referenced to as the “Rule of Nines”. Pediatric patients have different ratios so keep that in mind.

Here are a few links that help estimate burn percentage based on skin area:
  
 http://www.medstudentlc.com/page.php?id=85
  
http://www.emedicinehealth.com/burn_percentage_in_adults_rule_of_nines/article_em.htm:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27240/

Most patients with significant burn injuries have significant pain. We do tend to give something that has a narcotic to help their pain. Also, based on the percentage of burned skin, some patients will also need fluid resuscitation, ICU admission, intubation— etc, to manage the injury.

So, if you’re writing about burns and your POV character is a medical professional, keep these things in mind so your character can be treated the right way with the medical professional using the right language. 


 

Researching Burn Injures: Carrie Turansky

I’m please to host award-winning author Carrie Turansky today as she discusses how she researched burn injuries for her novel Surrendered Hearts. Welcome Carrie!

As I began brainstorming ideas for my novel, Surrendered Hearts, I read an article in my local newspaper about a gas pipeline explosion that destroyed several homes. The explosion and fire that followed injured many people. I decided this would be the difficult by perfect back-story for my heroine. I began researching the physical, emotional, and spiritual issues burn victims face during their healing process so I could accurately portray that in my novel. 
The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors (http://www.phoenix-society.org/) is a great organization that provides information and support for those who have burn injuries. I combed through their website as I created my heroine, Jennifer Evans. I soon realized her life would be completely changed by the loss her home, car, and beloved dog. She would also lose the ability to perform her job, and the scars that cover her arm, neck, and shoulder would damage her confidence and destroy many of her relationships.
I needed to understand the timeline for healing and learn the details about smoke inhalation and skin grafting so I could include those in the story. The Phoenix Society website provides links to other websites that gave me much of the information I was seeking. I was also very inspired by the articles I read in their newsletter, Burn Support News about burn survivors who overcame their injuries and rebuilt their lives.
Receiving support and acceptance from others is key to emotional healing for those with burn injuries, and that fit in perfectly with what I wanted to portray in my novel. My heroine had to come to a place where she was ready to stop hiding her scars and reveal them first to trusted friends and then to others. Understanding the pain and struggles a burn survivor goes through helped me show her character development in a realistic way.
I hope readers of Surrendered Hearts will think though the question – what makes a woman truly beautiful?  Along with my heroine, I’d like them to discover, “Beauty is more than perfect skin, or shiny hair, or a great figure. It comes from who you are inside, in your heart. It shines out through your eyes and your smile. And that’s what touches people and draws them to you.”
Collecting accurate information about medical conditions mentioned in your story is key to creating a realistic plot and characters. Mistakes can pull a reader out of the story and create doubt in their mind about your ability as an author to deliver an accurate and powerful story. So spend the time needed to research any medical conditions you decide to use in your novel.
If you enjoy contemporary inspirational romance, I hope you stop by my website and learn more about Surrendered Hearts. You can read the first chapter, see photos of the character and setting, and find links to order at www.carrieturansky.com.
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Carrie Turansky is the award-winning author of eight inspirational romance novels and novellas. She has been a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, The ACFW Genesis, and ACFW Carol Award and winner of the WRW Crystal Globe Award. She has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2000.Her latest releases are Christmas Mail-Order Brides, Seeking His Love, Surrendered Hearts and A Man To Trust. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, Scott, who is a pastor, author, speaker and counselor. They have five young adult children. Carrie and her family spent a year in Kenya as missionaries, giving them a passion for what God is doing around the world. Carrie leads women’s ministry at her church, and when she is not writing she enjoys gardening, reading, flower arranging, and cooking for friends and Family.