Burn victims often describe their experience as feeling like a million hot bee stings.
But that's only the beginning. What lies ahead can even be more formidable, if not truly painful.
A little more than eight years ago, Warren firefighters Darryl Anderson Sr. and Nick Radich were called to a fire on Williamsburg Street N.W., where victims still were in the home.
Burn survivor Ross Linert
receives physical therapy from physical therapist Jami Hope at the Burn Center at Akron Children’s Hospital.
"We were sitting at the table for lunch and the bells rang," Anderson said. "There was a house fire with an entrapment."
Radich joined him at the fire. The house was a split level and Anderson led the way with the hose.
"It was hotter than I ever felt on initial entry," Anderson recalled. "I opened the nozzle to cool us down and then proceeded and found the victim in the bedroom. I truly believe God told me where she was."
Researchers at the Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute at Akron Children's Hospital are conducting a study to investigate whether administering vitamin C intravenously to burn patients, in addition to the standard care currently provided, will result in better outcomes.
Patients admitted to Akron Children's Hospital within four hours of being burned will qualify. The study will accept pediatric patients up to age 18 with new burns covering at least 15 percent of their body and adult patients 18 years and older with new burns covering at least 30 percent of their body.
For more information about the study, contact the study coordinators at 330-543-3193 or on its Web site, www.akronchildrens.org/burnstudy.
"Then there was a flash fire," Radich said.
Anderson added, "When we were bringing her out of the room and went down the hall, it sounded like a freight train. Everything was on fire. It was like sitting on a pilot light."
Radich said that the flames were curling up the walls and he thought to himself, "We are actually in the flames."
"It was like a fireball was coming. Nick had his back to it and shielded me," Anderson said.
Anderson suffered burns to his upper body and nose, where the face piece of the helmet had started to melt. It was estimated the fire was 1,200 degrees.
Radich suffered third degree burns to an estimated 16 percent of his upper body.
"I told Darryl, 'I won't desert you; I'll always be with you.'"
Both were admitted to the Burn Center of Akron Children's Hospital, where Radich spent 17 days and Anderson nine days.
Chris Sadie, nurse manager of the burn unit, said that they generally admit 280 to 290 patients a year, but record as many as 1,400 on an outpatient basis. Of these patients, approximately 75 percent are adults.
The average length of stay was nine days in 2007 and 9.3 days in 2008.
The Burn Center at Akron Children's Hospital is a self-contained unit with 12 private rooms that includes an onsite physical therapy room, a large triage/treatment room, a room specifically dedicated to burn dressing and two tubs for debriding wounds. The unit maintains a 24-hour outpatient clinic, which provides services for patients who need follow-up wound care for minor burns.
"We see many types of burns including electrical burns, road rash, skin disorders, frostbite, friction burns, auto accident burns and burns received in house fires," Sadie said.
"We go by the American Burn Association's Guidelines when deciding to admit a patient," Sadie said. The guidelines suggest that if a child has 10 percent and an adult has 15 percent of their body burned, they are admitted.
"The burn unit at Akron Children's Hospital is different than most burn centers as we are one of only two pediatric hospitals in the U.S. that takes care of adult burn victims," she said.
When a patient comes into the unit, the burn team triages them to access the wounds, takes the victim's vital signs, does X-rays and determines whether the burns are primary or secondary, she said. They also find out what's going on with the patient besides the obvious burns.
"From there we take the patient to the tub room, (where they) are given sedation and are given a total bath, as most come in very dirty after their incident," Sadie said.
She said that the wounds are debrided - any skin that is loose is taken off. Then dressings and bandages are placed on the burned areas. It is very important to get the dead tissue off within 10 days to two weeks so it will not cause infection, she said.
Radich said, "Daily I had to sit in a giant tub and went through a debriding process. It was very, very painful, although after a few days it did not hurt as much as initially.''
Radich had several skin grafts that he described as "worse than the initial burn." After the grafts, Radich's arms were immobilized and he was able to come home. He then had to attend rehabilitation sessions as he was unable to lift his arm because the skin was too tight.
Anderson said that he really can't remember the first one or two days after being admitted as he was given painkillers to help. Then he, like Radich, underwent debriding sessions, where the burned skin is taken off bit by bit.
"The burn center is very well staffed," Radich said. "They have a compassionate staff - one of the best in the nation. You see so many people in there with varying degrees of burn.''
Anderson concurred. "The people who work there are angels on earth. They should have a ticket straight to heaven.''
Although the two men were healing, the work had just begun. Both attended physical therapy sessions, both on an in-patient basis as well as outpatient to get their lives back in order and to be able to return to work.
"We were determined to come back to work at the same time," Radich said, "but they (fire department) eased us back in."
Today, they vow that they will only work on the same shift as the other. It's part of the trust they have developed in each other.
Even more recently, the Burn Center has played a key role in the care of another local safety force member.
It's been more than a year since Austintown patrolman Ross Linert's cruiser exploded when it was hit from behind, and he endured burns to more than 30 percent of his body. Linert suffered extensive burns to his left leg, hands and face.
He spent two months in the burn center, including a month spent in an induced coma. At that point, the hard work of recovery began and continues to this day.
When he returned home, he initially attended outpatient therapy four days a week for five hours each day, with physical therapy in the morning and stretches of the hands and face, followed by occupational therapy.
The staff then put a paraffin-like substance on his hands and face, which not only loosens the skin, but in doing so, helps the healing process. He now attends the sessions once a week, plus does many of the exercises at home.
Linert is recovering from his 14th surgery, a skin graft on his hand.
"The staff at the burn unit is fantastic," Linert said. "When you are an in-patient, a nurse will be with you 24 hours a day. They are very caring. And, what I think is important is that I have had the same therapist since day one."
Sadie said that in addition to the physicians, the burn team consists of nurse practitioners, nurses, residents, nutritionists, psychologists and physical and occupational therapists who are all trained in the treatment of burn victims.
"My face and hands are still tight. The process is very slow," Linert said.
In addition to physical and occupational therapy, Linert has to use creams and lotions two to three times a day to keep the skin flexible. If not, he says that the hands begin to curl because of the tightness of the skin.
In addition to therapy sessions, Linert also belongs to a burn survivor group that not only focuses on the burn victim, but also on family members. Linert said that besides speakers, the group also hosted a Christmas party where all the children received gifts, and have also hosted meals for the families.
"The therapists, nurses and others who have been burned have become almost like family," he said.
Linert is back to driving although only locally at this point, and is looking forward to managing a youth baseball team this summer.
"It's been a struggle," Linert said. "There is no timetable for this. It seems with every step forward, I take two steps back.
''But there is good news. I can do a lot by myself now, where I wasn't able to at first. I am able to dress myself and eat by myself. These small things weren't possible at first. My vision has also improved and I am off all pain medications."
Perhaps what Linert is looking forward to the most is getting back to work.
"I am hoping I will be back in the office some time this summer," he said.