Oliver Hart, 15, has astounded doctors at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital with his recovery from severe 60% burns.
His injuries happened whilst playing out with friends when a container of flammable liquid caught fire – engulfing Oliver in flames. He rolled on the ground whilst his friends tried to stamp out the flames, before jumping into a nearby stream to try and cool down and stop the pain.
“Jumping into the cold stream seems like the logical thing to do,” said Emma Burton, Oliver’s mother.
“But it’s actually the worst thing you can do – it meant his wounds were infected and he would be more susceptible to infection throughout his recovery.”
Oliver was rushed to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where he faced 13 hours of surgery. His surgeries would continue for eight months, at one point he was averaging one surgery every other day.
“The first six weeks were spent purely on the burns unit as doctors tried to save his life from the infections. Whilst he was there, his risk of infection was so high that he was considered one of the poorliest people being kept at the hospital.” explained Emma.
“There were several times where we were told we were going to lose him, something a parent never wants to hear. 70% burns is where it becomes unlikely you will survive, which tells you how bad his injuries were. His chest and back were the only parts of his body they could take skin grafts from, everything from his elbows down was completely burnt – in the beginning every inch of his skin was bandaged and he was stuck in a stationary position. Just getting his dressings changed were 12-hour surgeries in themselves.
“His dad and I stayed with him the whole time doing 24 hour shifts each by his side every day, only going home to get a change of clothes. It meant I had to quit my job as a hairdresser and his dad had to take leave from his job.”
It wasn’t until eight months after entering the hospital that Oliver was able to finally step outside the doors again, with the help of crutches. It was a massive achievement after months of surgeries, intensive physio, pain and patience.
“The severity of his burns meant doctors had to try some different things to help him recover, one of which was a special lab-grown skin to help his skin grafts.”
As Oliver’s burns were so severe, doctors used ‘Biodegradable Temporising Matrix’ (BTM), a foam-based skin substitute which is applied to the person’s body before the top layer is peeled off and skin grafts are added on top. The revolutionary new treatment gives a better layer beneath the surface of the skin, with the hope of achieving a better long-term scarring outcome for the patient.
Sam McNally, Consultant Burn Surgeon, worked with Oliver and his family at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and described them as amazing:
“In Oliver’s case we used BTM as his burns were so deep and extensive, it’s a relatively new and expensive technology and there is great hope it will become the Holy Grail of burns treatments.
“He was one of the first patients we used BTM on and his recovery has been an interesting insight into how this technology may help others.
“His progress since he came to us has blown me away, we don’t consider ourselves to have fully treated a patient until they are back to getting on with their lives and it makes me so happy to see him at that point.
“However, I think as much credit for that must go to his mum as it does the medical professionals who cared for him. She was phenomenal and her support for her son was key to his recovery – if I was in her position, I cannot say I would have dealt with it as well as she did.
“Not only was her love and dedication to her son clear for us all to see, but she showed so much intelligence in how she took in complex clinical information and figured out how best her son could be supported.”
Emma said of where the family are now:
“I never, ever thought we’d be where we are now, despite how traumatic it has been for all of us. His skin has healed much quicker than predicted which has amazed his doctors, he is years ahead of where he was expected to be.
“He is back to how he was before the accident, he’s obviously a much more cautious person than he was before and his recovery and treatment will continue for the rest of his life, but he is back to being his normal self.
“He can see his friends again, go to the gym and play football – words can’t describe how unbelievable that is for us. We never got our hopes up and always went at his pace, but the results from his determination and the care he received are amazing. The staff at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital saved his life several times over.”