Health Sciences Centre gets $2M gift for burn care research

A $2-million endowment to the Health Sciences Centre's burn unit will mean vast improvements to patient care and advances in treatment, doctors say.

'It moves us forward significantly in terms of what type of care we're going to do'

The Health Sciences Centre burn unit will use money from the endowment for things like ​equipment and professional development to create expertise in advanced care. (CBC)

A $2-million endowment to Health Sciences Centre's burn unit will allow the hospital to hire a researcher dedicated to using stem cells to develop treatments for burn patients, doctors say.

The gift for burn care research, from the Firefighters' Burn Fund, was announced on Wednesday.

"It is very difficult for me to overstate the significance of this gift. [It] really allows us to transform some of the care that we deliver to some of our burn survivors," said Dr. Ed Buchel, associate head of the department of surgery for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

"It moves us forward significantly in terms of what type of care we're going to do. This puts us on a new playing field."

Interest from the endowment fund will be used each year to fund the researcher, supplies and specialized equipment for purifying patients' stem cells from their own fat.

John Hart, who had 138,000 volts of electricity pass through his body, thanks Health Sciences Centre and the Firefighters' Burn Fund on Wednesday for the care he received. (CBC)

The ability to grow stem cells in hospital labs puts skin grafts that heal faster and with less scarring, less pain, better esthetics and improved function on the horizon, hospital officials said.

"This means esthetically and functionally, massive improvements in patient care," which could lead to a reduction from dozens of surgeries at present to only a few for each patient, Buchel said.

John Hart, who survived having 138,000 volts of electricity pass through his body, said at Wednesday's announcement that he cannot thank HSC and the Firefighters' Burn Fund enough for saving his life.

Hart was surveying in northern Manitoba when a metal rod he held contacted a transformer. The power went through his hand, travelled his body and exited out his foot, destroying his right side knee and elbow joints.

He suffered third-degree burns to 40 per cent of his body and spent three months at HSC, where his right leg and arm were amputated above the joints, and he went through numerous skin grafts.

It was 24 years ago and he remembers it all, but mostly he remembers the care he received, he said. Because of that care, he says he is outgoing and enjoys his life.

"It all started here and followed through for the rest of my life. I'm very lucky for all that HSC has done for me," he said.