Burn centers see rise in patients, attribute to lack of planning

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Burn patients from across the Southeast travel to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in  Augusta, Ga., for treatment, but follow up visits can mean driving for hours each way. Fortunately, doctors from Augusta come to Trident Medical Center in North Charleston once a week, on Wednesdays.

Dr. Fred Mullins is a specialist at the burn center, where 100 percent of their patients are treated for burn injuries. "This time of year its usually house fires because of cold weather," said Mullins.

Mullins says even after repeated warnings, people keep making the same mistakes, namely "space heaters,  kerosene heaters, electric fires in the house from Christmas lights, people smoking," said Mullins.

Another mistake?  Once a person catches fire, they run through their house, adding more oxygen, and spreading the fire. Others turn back for keepsakes or pets. "That is the big killer; people going back into the house," said Mullins.

Any burn injuries covering more than 20 percent of the patient's body is considered catastrophic.  "It's not just the skin that's affected it affects every organ and system in your body. It releases toxins into your system that can cause heart failure, kidney failure, so we have to treat every part of the body," said Mullins.

To prevent burn injuries in the first place, you need a fire plan in place before a fire ever starts because it's hard to think clearly in the midst of chaos, said Mullins.

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