It was just another day at the pub in Boise, Idaho and Kerry Caldwell, the Brew Master, was making a batch of beer. As she was stirring the wort—beer before its fermented—250 gallons boiled over the kettle spilling onto her body from her right shoulder all the way down to her ankle, covering her abdomen and back. In total, 33% of Kerry's body was burned.
She jumped off the brew stand that was elevated above the ground while her assistant dashed over as he heard the screams. He grabbed the closest hose and started spraying her down with cold water. Then he knew she had to get to the hospital.
A coworker took her to St. Alphonsus Hospital, where they were greeted by a St. Al's employee waiting outside with a wheelchair. Kerry was immediately taken to a back room and given medication to manage the pain. Even with the medication, the pain was unbearable, "I kept telling myself to breathe and then scream, breathe and then scream," Kerry said.
The provider at St. Al's took photos of Kerry's burns and sent them to the Burn Center at University of Utah Health for a second opinion. Because of the TeleBurn partnership between St. Al's and U of U Health, providers at both locations are able to use technology to assess patient burns, share visuals, and discuss the best course of treatment.
Ten minutes after U of U Health burn experts examined the photos, Kerry was transported via AirMed to U's Burn Center in Salt Lake City. Kerry remembers waking up in a hospital bed in the burn unit at U of U Health. "They assessed my burns around the clock and did wound care three times a day," she said. "They would clean the burns and re-bandage them."
Her care went well beyond what was medically necessary. "I was at the Burn Center over Pioneer Day, and everyone called it 'pie and beer day,' so the staff brought me pie and root beer, bundled me up in my wheel chair and took me to the roof where I could see the fireworks all over the valley. They didn't have to do that."
As the wound care continued, Kerry learned her wounds were worse than she originally thought, but fortunately she was healing quickly. Amalia Cochran, MD, U of U Health burn expert, performed Kerry's skin graft surgery on her tenth day in the Burn Center. Fifteen days after that she was released on local allocation—where she could leave the hospital, but still had to remain in Salt Lake City.
After 35 days in the care of the Burn Center she was released and ready to go home, but she didn't want to leave. "I begged them to let me stay – I didn't want to do my own wound care, I didn't want to be away from such a good team who had taken such good care of me, because I wouldn't be in the same region," she said.
With reluctance, she drove back to Boise with her family. Once she was home, she started going back to work on a limited basis due to the physical demands of her job. Rather than drive back to Salt Lake City for every follow-up appointment, she was able to utilize the TeleBurn program once again to connect with the burn doctor that cared for her in the hospital. Kerry went to St. Al's once a week for TeleBurn visits with burn physician. As time went by and her burns continued to heal properly, her appointments grew less frequent.
"My telemedicine appointments were great. I really liked that I could still see Dr. Cochran even though I wasn't in the area. I saw the same doctor every time," she said.
Part of the holistic aftercare Kerry received included the opportunity to attend the six-day adult river rafting trip in Cataract Canyon. There she was able to spend time with other burn survivors -- learning to heal physically, emotionally, and socially. The aftercare programs at the U of U are offered free of charge to burn survivors and are part of the holistic treatment plan offered to each patient.
Kerry's accident was three years ago, and since then, her life has returned to normal. She has transitioned to a different department in a new brewery. She has no mobility issues, limited scarring, and has fond memories of the care she received from both St. Al's and U of U Health.
She said, "The partnership between St. Al's and U of U Health gives me peace of mind, just knowing I can live here and still access such amazing care."