Earlier this year I was recruiting, cajoling and maybe harassing the Burns Service team to form a team for this years Central Park Plunge (see below). Every year the clinical team takes up the challenge along with our patients, and this year was no exception with Michelle Cork and Stuart Andrews, our resident dietician and clinical psychologist respectively signing up. When I asked for a patient, the name Nigel Sutton was suggested.
I called Nigel and after many missed calls and some serious convincing, Nigel and his wife Jody signed up. After numerous email communication I literally bumped into Nigel in the Burns Outpatient clinic after he saw my name on my security access pass. To put a face to a name is always great, but when the person behind the name is someone like Nigel it is truly great. Nigel is simply a fantastic guy, and his experiences with suffering a burn injury has not diminished this. I feel privileged when I get to know the patients, they really bring home for me why I love my job and feel passionate about it. I interviewed Nigel for this story and I hope I can do him and his story some justice, so you too, can get to know him.
The date of Nigel’s injury he remembers well, the 30 October 2015 as well as the fact that his second child, his daughter Samantha, was only two months old at the time, and his son Lachlan, 3. The cause of the burn was flame from petrol and resulted in approximately 15% burns to his face, hands, arm and torso.
Three years on, after multiple surgeries, with the most recent just six weeks ago, Nigel is still a beaming, positive person, despite his injuries and all he has gone through. He is well entrenched, well known and well liked in our Burns team.
As a patient in rehabilitation, from physiotherapy to occupational therapy, Nigel did exactly what was asked from him, and this has led to terrific outcomes from both a patient and clinical perspective. Nigel said, "being a curious, optimistic and determined person, desperate to reclaim my life, I decided to honour this essential research by doing everything asked of me and see where it took me". Nigel can now drive, pick up and carry his daughter, play with his children and he has returned to work.
Nigel has taken part in our laser research, he has had to drink heavy water, he’s had his face imaged and has been poked and prodded many times all in the name of research. When I asked him about his experience as a ‘guinea pig’ for the many research programs he has volunteered for, he says that he understands what we are essentially trying to achieve. “To be able to reduce scarring, and to bring you back to where I was before”. Nigel said, “I expected to look like Freddy Kreuger after wearing a face mask for so long with everyone staring at you’, and I know now that I don’t, and I don’t even think about it now.”
Nigel summed up what he went through with just occupational therapy - he required the following custom made items: 21 x arm, hand and finger splint; 49 x chest, arm, hand and face garments, plus 3 x vacuum formed clear face garments.
As an example of his participation in the Heavy Water research project - over a 6 week period, Nigel consumed 36 x 100ml bottles of Heavy Water at home and attended the research clinic on 5 occasions over a 6 week period, during which time, 5 x blood samples and 10 x Punch biopsies were collected from his arms.
“Research leads to rehabilitation, and until you have experienced something like this yourself, you never know, and I never knew about the Fiona Wood Foundation and the research”.
When I asked him about how he felt about abseiling 220m down the Central Park Building, he said “Jody is absolutely terrified, but I’m not scared, what I’ve learnt is what I can come back from after my death bed.”
Nigel’s attitude is a real testament to his character, he says he was always a glass half full type of person and now this has led him to being open and accepting of everything that has happened and his negative experiences have turned into many positives. Nigel says the support he received from his family, especially his wife Jody, the Burns Service team and his work has meant all the difference.
Story: Di Lim
Photos below (L-R): Al, Nigel Sutton, Stuart Andrews, Maree, Michelle Cork and Di Lim - fundraising sausage sizzle for the Central Park Plunge &
(L-R): Mark Fear, Fiona Wood, Helen Douglas, Nigel Sutton and Lavan, Managing Partner, Dean Hely - Nigel spoke at our recent Research Update breakfast