Two days after the White Island Volcano erupted in New Zealand, Royal North Shore Hospital staff had to jump into action to receive six Australians Medivaced to its Burns Unit.
The 12-bed Burns Unit was already busy treating patients with burns from the terrible bush fire season.
Head of the Burns Unit Dr Rob Gates anxiously waited to receive the six patients to the ward.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald he said he didn’t quite know what we were going to receive.
He told the Herald some of their wounds looked as though they had been received from the theatre of battle.
He knew they had to act fast as the burns themselves were “quite toxic”.
People who have received severe burns have complex needs so the RNSH Burns Unit is made up of a skilled multidisciplinary team including specialist nursing and medical staff, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers.
Burns patients can spend months in hospital but treatment is ongoing and can go on after they leave hospital from one to two years and a serious burn can take up to five years to fully recover.
Senior physiotherapist Julie Bricknell said starting burns patients on movement therapy as soon as possible was really important, even if the patients not conscious.
“When you get a burn your body is essentially trying to make that wound smaller, so what happens is that skin starts to contract,” she said.
“If we were to hold off until they were completely healed they’d have perfectly healed skin and absolutely no function, they would potentially have a lot of disfigurement, but they would also have limitations to their movement.”
Burns Unit Acting Nurse Unit Manager Tracey Hurley said we give the patients a lot of pain relief so they are sedated.
“The process of removing old dressings three times a week and cleaning the wounds and redressing them can take a team of nurses up to three hours,” she said.