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news News Thursday, January 30, 2020 Thursday, January 30, 2020 10:45 AM - Thursday, January 30, 2020 10:45 AM

Brayden's story

How Shriners Hospitals for Children staff helped a young man fight back from near-death experience

Brayden's story

On a cold morning in November of 2018, Brayden was on his way to work when his car went over a guardrail and burst into flames. His injuries were devastating: In addition to other trauma, he was burned over 85% of his body.

Brayden was airlifted to a local hospital where he stayed for nearly seven months. While there, both Brayden’s legs and his left hand were amputated, and he lost more than 50% of his body weight. The hospital staff considered him “noncompliant” and difficult to work with – not surprising given his bleak situation, and the fact that he was kept heavily sedated for much of the time.

Finally, the decision was made to discharge him to his father’s home for hospice care. He weighed an emaciated 82 pounds. He was unable to sit up, and his burn wounds were still open and extremely painful.

A family friend suggested Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati might be able to help. After a consult, Brayden was brought to Cincinnati in May of 2019.

The difference in care was instantly apparent. “Here we use a team approach to treat our patients,” said Cindy DeSerna, LISW-S, CCM, manager of care management for the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital. “Brayden needed so much. Because he was legally an adult, no one at the previous hospital made him do the hard work when he became frustrated. We knew he would need all the help our team could give him.”

“A large burn can be mentally as well as physically debilitating,” said Petra Warner, M.D., FACS, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital chief of staff and Brayden’s burn surgeon. “It takes internal strength to redefine who you are and accept what has happened. Brayden has this strength – it was visible on his first day in clinic when he stated he wanted to regain his independence.”

Burn injuries like Brayden’s cause a hypermetabolic state that results in increased muscle wasting. Patients often require three times their normal caloric intake to begin healing. The clinical dietitians at the Cincinnati Shriners Hospital understand that, and develop a liquid diet specifically designed to provide the precise nutrients and calories for each patient.

Brayden also worked regularly with hospital psychiatrist Joseph Cresci Jr., M.D., who quickly recognized that the young man had become clinically depressed. Dr. Cresci prescribed medication to boost his appetite as well as his mood.

Within seven weeks, Brayden gained more than 40 pounds. Along with proper nutrition, Dr. Warner’s skilled skin grafting and proper dressing changes began to heal his wounds. He was also speaking with Dr. Cresci three times a week, who helped him see some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Now it was time to start the hard work of recovery. Brayden hadn’t sat upright in nearly eight months and even the effort was extremely painful. The Cincinnati Shriners Hospitals' burn nurses know that it takes patience and tenacity, combined with a bit of “tough love,” for patients like Brayden to get better. At first, the pain made him difficult to work with, but his nurses didn’t let up. Finally, during a particularly tough session, Brayden’s nurse looked him in the eye and said, “I know this hurts, but you HAVE to do it. I’m not going to give up on you!” It was a turning point for Brayden; he realized that he could get better.

By the end of June, Brayden was strong enough to move forward in his recovery. Less than two months earlier, he had been released from another hospital because there was nothing more its staff could do for him. Now, because of Shriners Hospitals for Children, he had a path to take back his life.

Brayden headed to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston to regain his independence. The Houston Shriners Hospital specializes in orthopaedic treatment and provides intensive inpatient physical and occupational therapy.

The goal at the Houston Shriners Hospital was to build Brayden’s upper body and core strength so he could sit up on his own and transfer from one chair to another. Their prosthetics team also crafted a device that would allow him to propel himself in a manual wheelchair, which was a game changer – a real move toward self-reliance.

Brayden will continue treatment at both hospitals, and though his challenges are far from over, the life-changing care of Shriners Hospitals for Children is giving Brayden the tools and treatment to work toward a positive future.