Treatment: Laser treatment for burn scars
Laser(s) used: n/a
Number of Treatments: n/a
Scars: Third degree burns on 30% of body –hands, legs, face, chest and arm.
“My self-esteem had gone down in general since the fire. I stuck with Dr. Waibel because she was so determined to find a solution. She has changed my life. I think of her not only as my doctor, but as a friend as well. She makes time for each and every patient and goes above and beyond to help. She is unlike any other doctor I’ve ever met. Her dedication doesn’t end when her patients walk out of the room.”
Q: Can you tell me about your burn situation?
A: On 4/23/2005, two days after my anniversary, I was cooking. I heated grease in the bottom of the skillet prior to adding the potatoes because I was told that would make the fried potatoes I was cooking crispier. I had a lid on the skillet but it didn’t have an opening that would allow the condensation to escape, so when I lifted the lid the condensation dripped back into the pan, causing a fire to erupt. I didn’t know what to do; the fire was already a foot high. My husband grabbed the pan from me, but the fire continued to grow steadily. He couldn’t hold it any longer, so he dropped the pan and a huge fireball rose to the ceiling. I started to run to get the kids and get out of the house, but slipped and fell. While I was on the floor the fire crawled up my arm and the side of my face. The fire extinguished, but when I went to the bathroom to rinse myself off, I noticed that the skin on my face was bubbling and I thought to myself, I look like a monster. In addition, all of the skin was dripping off my fingers as I washed my hands, but I kept washing them because it was the only source of relief for me. But then one of my children asked if mommy was going to die, and then my perspective changed. It was as if all of the pain melted away; the most important thing was to be strong for my children. I was in the hospital from that day through May 26th.
Q: Can you take me to the point of when you first discovered Dr. Waibel?
A: When I went to the ER, I was diagnosed with third degree burns on 30% of my body – my hands, my legs, my face, my chest and my arm. I had three skin graft surgeries. After I got out of the hospital, my face didn’t look too bad but a month or so after I got out I started getting scars that wouldn’t go away, they just kept getting worse. The hospital gave me different burn masks to control it, but the masks were ineffective. I felt like something out of Star Trek, but the hospital told me that this was my life now and there was no solution. One day when I was talking to the physical therapist, she recommended laser surgery, but told me that chances were I wouldn’t see much different because it was new to the laser industry. But I was at the point when the risk was worth it to me. So when I got home I started calling all over the state of Ohio and didn’t find any plastic surgeons with lasers until I reached the Cleveland Clinic. She suggested trying dermatologists instead. When I started reaching out, Dr. Waibel was recommended to me as a physician who specialized in lasers. At the time she had 11 lasers at her disposal. I first met with her about one year after the fire. Dr. Waibel was incredibly empathetic. She told me that she couldn’t even imagine the trauma of suffering through a fire and the consequences of it, and she added that she would do whatever it took to help me. She told me that whatever my insurance didn’t cover, they would write off. She saved my life. The first five procedures didn’t have much of an impact, but additional procedures started to show improvement. It was the Fraxiel laser that completed renovated my scars; that laser arrived at her practice about 9 months after I started treatment with her. When she showed me the difference from my initial treatment, it struck me that she could change the lives of so many burn survivors; she could literally change the face of laser industry in this regard, she could make such a difference for so many burn victims.
Q: What was your recovery period like after the first procedure?
A: After I was finished with the first procedure, at first it looked like I had cigarette burns all over my face, but it went away within a week. My self-esteem had gone down in general since the fire. I stuck with Dr. Waibel because she was so determined to find a solution. It’s the new lasers like the Fraxiel that have really made a difference. Dr. Waibel came across the Ultra Pulse after the Fraxiel, and that’s when she started using the Ultra Pulse on patients. I have noticed improvements with the Ultra Pulse as well, but not as drastic as with the Fraxiel. The Fraxiel leaves you with a sunburn feel for three or four days, but it eventually peels away and your skin looks amazing. Everyone should use this laser – for burns, lasers, etc.
Q: What are you able to do/feel now that you couldn’t prior to the treatments?
A: When you burn, your skin constricts where your scars lie. When I was burned on my chest I had scar tissue that developed into a lump in between my breasts. It would stick out over my bra. It has basically flattened out thanks to the treatments. It was the Ultra Pulse that really made a difference with that particular issue. The biggest difference for me has been an increase in self-confidence. I feel the burn happened for a reason, because if I can help other burn survivors get through it and find some relief and help, then the suffering was worthwhile for me.
Q: What would you express to Dr. Waibel in terms of what she has done for you?
A: She has changed my life. I think of her not only as my doctor, but as a friend as well. She makes time for each and every patient, she goes above and beyond to help. She is unlike any other doctor I’ve ever met. Her dedication doesn’t end when her patients walk out of the room. She’s a wonderful doctor, person and friend.