AURORA, Colo. — A New Mexico teen wasn't sure he would be able to recognize himself after he was badly burned during a campfire accident back in February. However, he is now able to recognize himself in the mirror thanks to a new treatment at UCHealth’s Burn and Frostbite Center in Aurora.
UCHealth is the first in the region to use "spray-on skin" for burn patients. That is the treatment Louk Thomas, 15, underwent after burning nearly 30 percent of his body.
“I don't think about it. Live day by day,” said Thomas.
That’s Thomas’ motto after he was severely burned during a campfire accident in New Mexico earlier this year. The teen says he suffered second-degree burns to his face and third-degree burns all over his body. Thomas was flown to UCHealth. His mom, Candace Herrera, was by his side the whole time.
“When the doctor walked in, I didn't know who he was. He said, "Hi, I’m Dr. Wiktor." And I just balled. He said, "Are you okay?"” Herrera recalled.
Thomas received nearly a dozen skin grafts to various parts of his body. His face got what's called ReCell, a spray-on skin treatment. Dr. Arek Wiktor performed the surgery.
In a video provided by UCHealth, Dr. Wiktor demonstrated how much skin is typically taken from a patient's body. It's a small skin sample that's then processed in a machine in the operating room to create a solution of skin cells. The cells are then sprayed on the burn to help the affected area regenerate and form a new layer of skin.
Dr. Wiktor says this procedure is less invasive, less painful and plays a critical role in healing.
“I got home and looked like I had a facelift, really,” said Thomas. “When I first got home, I didn't look the same, but now I kinda see more since my skin stretched.”
“When they did spray his face, he looked like the Michelin man. Covered both hands and face. I mean, everything was covered,” Herrera said.
Thomas’ positivity and love of country music stood out to the hospital staff and country music star Tim McGraw, so the singer sent him a video offering words of encouragement.
“I can't ever forget these people that helped me so much and are still helping me today," said Thomas. "There's nothing like that."
“I definitely think he's a miracle,” Herrera said.
Country music isn't the only thing Thomas loves. He also has a passion for participating in rodeos and is back to doing that while waiting on laser surgery.