En Route to New Zealand: Vast Amount of Skin

Emergency room doctor describes scene 'like a war zone'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2019 6:33 AM CST
En Route to New Zealand: Vast Amount of Skin
This aerial photo shows White Island after its volcanic eruption in New Zealand on Monday.   (George Novak/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Some 1,300 square feet of skin is being sent to New Zealand for burn victims caught up in the White Island eruption. If that's not a good enough indication of the condition of the 30 people still in the hospital, emergency room doctor John Bonning tells the New Zealand Herald that "the patients are in so much pain and will be fighting for their life for the next two or three weeks and even then they could die." He describes the initial scene at Waikato Hospital as "awful, just horrific," with "bits of dead skin" and "broken ash" peeling off bodies. "Saying it was like a war zone would not be an understatement," he adds. Staff had to run out to get cling wrap as temporary cover for burns, per the Herald. The skin—the equivalent of 60 donors—is being sent from Australia and the US in special frozen storage as only a handful of people donate skin in New Zealand each year.

"We believe that we have identified enough skin to look after the patients as far as the surgeons can predict for the next few weeks" but "we will continue to maintain our stock to as high a number as we can," Sarah Morley, chief medical officer at New Zealand Blood Service, tells the Herald. All patients reportedly have burns to 30% of the body (20% is the equivalent of two arms), while two patients have burns to 90%. Twenty-nine patients remain in intensive care at one of four New Zealand hospitals, while one was transferred to Australia on Wednesday. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated 10 more patients would be moved to Victoria and New South Wales within 24 hours. It's still too dangerous to recover the bodies of eight people believed to have died on White Island. However, Stuff.co.nz reports DNA evidence is being assembled for identification. (More volcano stories.)

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