Boundless Service - One Man’s Journey to Help Other Burn Survivors

This February, burn survivor Brian Davis traveled to Dallas to participate in a study conducted by the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Designed to help burn survivors in the military, the study explores the impact of burn injuries on the body’s ability to regulate temperature.

In deeper burns and some partial thickness skin grafts, the skin’s sweat glands are destroyed. As a result, many burn survivors struggle to keep cool. Some may even be forced to avoid exercise or humid conditions that might trigger a heat stroke.

With the help of burn survivors like Brian, researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine are looking for a deeper understanding of these complications. Brian, who spent four days in their lab, blogged about his experience in a five-part series. Learn more about his adventure below:

By Brian Davis

As many of you know, I was burned by hot oil in 2003. I don’t know the exact number, but I believe that I have around 30% skin grafts and scarring, mostly on my arms and legs. The most consequential aspect of the scarring is that I am unable to sweat in those areas and that I sweat extra in other areas to compensate. This is more than a cosmetic impact because sweat is a the body’s main method of heat dispersion. What that means is I have a difficult time in excessive heat because my body cannot cool itself down as efficiently as most people.

For the next few days, I will be in Dallas, Texas, taking part in a study. The purpose of the study is to understand exactly the impact of burns are on the temperature regulation. I don’t know all of the details, but I will find out soon. As I understand it, I swallow a small device that will allow the monitors of the tests to track my internal temperature. They will then subject me to some form of torture (cardio exercise) and observe how my body is able regulate the internal temperature.

There is a lot that I do not know: I don’t know why I cannot sweat through the grafts (I assume it is that the sweat glands were destroyed by the hot oil). I don’t know what it is that I am swallowing (I am assured that it is not very large and mostly inert and that it will pass through my system in a few days). I don’t know how hard they will work me (I don’t like cardio so it should not take long to put me under extreme stress).

I am mostly curious; about the process and what they can tell me about my personal temperature regulation. My biggest concern is that I am told I cannot drink coffee in the morning before the testing.

Day One - First Day of Temperature Regulation Study

I arrive at 10am and meet the folks that are running the test. The first few hours are spent going through paperwork, getting some baseline measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure, etc. They show me the room that the testing will occur in. It looks like a walk-in freezer that you would find in a restaurant except for two things: There is a window in the door that allows you too see, a recumbent bicycle and a bunch of monitoring equipment inside the room. And the room contains recumbent bicycle and a bunch of monitoring equipment.

I will be coming to this room for 4 days, each day’s test is slightly different. Today, I will be pedaling at or about 75RPM in a warm room. For 10 minutes at a time, they will place a snorkel in my mouth and I will breath through it. Something about the exhales gives them information about what is happening on the inside. I will pedal without headgear for 15 minutes, between the snorkel-in-mouth testing period. Three times during the test, they will place a different snorkel in my mouth. This one will contain nitrogen and by measuring the amount of nitrogen I exhale at the end of the 30 second test, they can tell how much blood my heart is pumping with every beat and how oxygenated my blood is. I will also be hooked up to various heart-measuring and temperature-checking devices.

But wait! There’s more.

Click here to read more about Brian's 5 day journey


Are you a burn survivor who is interested in participating in this study?  Click here to learn more!


Article reposted with permission of Boundless Service Blog and Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital



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