Thanks for sav­ing my skin

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - REBECCA DIGIROLAMO

IT’S a small keep­sake gifted with enor­mous thanks.

“I wouldn’t be here with­out him,” burns vic­tim An­gelo Ce­sare, from Man­ning­ham, said.

Eigh­teen months ago, Royal Ade­laide Hospi­tal Burns Unit di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor John Green­wood treated An­gelo af­ter a freak ac­ci­dent scarred 60 per cent of his body with third-de­gree burns.

It’s the first time An­gelo has told his story pub­licly.

“An­gelo had an ex­tremely life-threat­en­ing burn in­jury cov­er­ing a very ex­ten­sive amount of his skin, as well as a smoke in­hala­tion lung in­jury,” Prof Green­wood says. “He was lucky he was in Ade­laide – the mor­tal­ity rate here for adult burn in­jury is less than 0.1 per cent.”

Later this month, An­gelo will un­dergo an­other cor­rec­tive surgery – his sixth pro­ce­dure to date. The North Ade­laide hair­dress­ing sa­lon owner was com­pletely set alight af­ter ac­ci­den­tally drop­ping a 20-litre methy­lated spir­its con­tainer he was de­cant­ing in his sa­lon.

The highly flammable liq­uid ig­nit­ing on con­tact with a live power point, burn­ing him from his neck to his toes.

“All I could re­mem­ber was pick­ing up the bot­tle and then whoosh,” he said. Alone in the sa­lon and with staff at least 30 min­utes away, An­gelo smashed through the sa­lon’s front glass doors on to cafe strip Mel­bourne St.

“There was a lot of pain,” he said. “I knew I was on fire. I had to get out.”

Nine days later, he woke from an in­duced coma at the RAH. His fin­gers had fused to­gether while shield­ing his face from the flames. He spent five months in hospi­tal and is in re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

An­gelo cred­its his re­cov­ery to a syn­thetic skin prod­uct de­vel­oped by Prof Green­wood af­ter the 2002 Bali bomb­ings and which was ap­plied by the doc­tor him­self to wild­fire vic­tims in Greece just last month. While un­der pre-surgery se­da­tion in April, An­gelo over­heard Prof Green­wood men­tion his dream car – the Bri­tish sports car mar­que As­ton Martin.

“I wasn’t quite out of it yet, so I told (Prof Green­wood) not to worry and that I’d buy one for him,” he said.

This week An­gelo made good on his prom­ise – de­liv­er­ing a minia­ture ver­sion of the cov­eted ex­otic ve­hi­cle to his sur­geon.

Prof Green­wood said the sports car would take pride of place in his of­fice at the RAH. “(It’s) such a thought­ful gift with a funny story be­hind it – it’s nice to have some­thing to re­mem­ber my pa­tients by.”

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