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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Brittany Patrick remembers August 19, 2014 very well. A gas fire inside a shed nearly took her life.

“They thought I wasn’t going to make it because I had real bad smoke inhalation,” said Patrick. “My burns were just really bad, so they just thought they were treating me as a death as I was coming to the hospital.”

Patrick suffered third-degree burns on 56 percent of her body. The plastic surgeon who treated her knew she would have challenges recovering.

“They were very deep, full thickness injuries, so that always presents a problem,” said Dr. Rajiv Sood, plastic surgeon with Eskenazi.

Patrick was placed in a coma at Eskenazi’s burn unit. Dr. Sood then took several small biopsies of her healthy skin, primarily from her back and thigh, and sent them off to a lab in Boston, where technicians prepared it to grow. The technique is called cultured epidermal autografts.

“We break out the cells and culture it over a three to four week period. At the end of that, we will get the skin back,” said Sood.

Patrick’s new skin was cultured and grown in an FDA-regulated, germ-free lab.  While those cells grew, she faced the battle of her life: fighting infection with temporary skin from a cadaver and being debrided, removing dead tissue from her body.

“Going through it, I remember it, the debriding, it hurts, really bad,” she recalled.

After several weeks, the Boston team secured Patrick’s new skin in a container and flew it to Indianapolis for transplant.  The Eskenzai Health team took over from there.

“The cultured skin arrives, we take off the cadaver skin and we have our own technique, using widely-meshed skin of your own and putting the cultured skin on top,” said Sood.

Her new skin attached. When she stabilized, she was transferred to Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana. After a few weeks, she was able to go home. She’s had close to 16 operations and may need more.

Despite the challenges before her, she is alive, which is something even she didn’t think would be possible after her injuries.

“The people here are amazing,” she said. “The doctors are phenomenal, they help you if you need help right away. They’re there for you.”

Click on the following links for more on the lab, Dr. Sood and the nurses who attended Patrick.