He says he has the best job in the world — and his job is to help young children recover from serious full-body burns.
David Greenhalgh, M.D. was brought in as the chief of Shriners Hospitals for Children’s burn division after building a career as one of the foremost authorities in burn surgery and burn care.
Dr. Greenhalgh is fascinated by the remarkable recovery that burn victims can make. “Burn victims are probably the sickest people you can see who can barely hang on, and then still come back and give you a thanks after all is done. We have kids that are barely alive, and then later it’s like it barely affected them. They’re active little kids again.”
The children’s hospital treats burns small and large. Some of the deadliest burns he sees can cover 80 to 90 percent of the body, leaving the child susceptible to germs normally blocked out by skin.
Dr. Greenhalgh and his team first work with a patient to cover them with skin grafts — and then move to fit a child for a tight body suit, called a garment, designed to flatten scars. These garments are designed with kids in mind — young patients can choose patterns and brightly colored threads to liven up the normal nude-colored spandex.
The kids will wear these garments for a year or more. Burns require a long recovery time — for every percent that a patient’s body is damaged, that patient will spend about a day in the hospital to match. And as children grow, they can require additional reconstructive surgeries over the years to stretch out tightening skin grafts.
At the end of his long days, Dr. Greenhalgh turns his attention to research on response to injury, resuscitation, and sepsis. He also researches the causes of burns — from campfires to fireworks — leading prevention workshops and speaking out against dangerous products to help ensure fewer young patients come to his door.
Dr. Greenhalgh sees this holistic approach as key to success. “We have the research in the hospital that can go right along and help make the translation to clinical concepts…It’s one of the best jobs you can get, having the support for dealing with children in the best way you can.”
See Dr. Greenhalgh in action — click the slideshow button below: