Cover image for Burn unit : saving lives after the flames
Burn unit : saving lives after the flames
Ravage, Barbara.
Personal Author:
First Da Capo Press edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, 2004.
Physical Description:
302 pages ; 24 cm
A life on fire -- Saturday night at the Cocoanut Grove -- A riot in the body -- The general -- The very young, the very old, the drunk, and the stupid -- Bigelow 13 -- In the hyperbaric chamber -- At the bedside -- Gasping for breath -- The scourge and the silver standard -- Cutting off the dead -- Healing -- New skin -- Burned to death -- A new life.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RD96.4 .R37 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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As a scourge, fire knows no equal. Medical science may have conquered polio and may one day cure cancer, but fire and the injury it brings will always be with us. Indeed, heat inflicts a wound that ignites a terrible conflict within the body, transforming it into a raging machine intent on consuming itself. The specialized care burn patients require begins at the ER door and continues for weeks, months, and even years; burn treatment as it is practiced today gives new meaning to the term intensive care.Though each of us is just a spark away from being a burn victim, the public knows little and understands less about the world that patients inhabit. Pulling the curtains back on this private and sterile environment, Burn Unit is a riveting account of the frontline efforts--both modern-day and historical--to save lives devastated by fire. With unflinching urgency, Barbara Ravage follows an extraordinary team of healers at Massachusetts General Hospital, the cradle of modern burn treatment and the site of one of the best burn units in the world. From Boston's Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942 to the treatment of the victims of the Rhode Island nightclub fire in early 2003, we watch everyday heroes do their incredible but punishing work against the backdrop of history. Both a moving human drama and an engrossing scientific exploration of this little-known field of medicine, Burn Unit is an unforgettably powerful read.

Author Notes

The author of six books, Barbara Ravage is a member of the National Association of Science Writers. She lives on Cape Cod.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ever since that moment in the distant past when someone bit into the first tasty morsel of roasted meat,\b humans have endeavored to make friends with fire, with generally satisfying but conspicuously incomplete success. For the 45,000 admitted to hospital burn units annually, it is a friendship that has gone very bad. Science and medicine writer Ravage examines how far the medical community has come in its efforts to save and salvage the lives of such burn victims, suffering both from obvious wounds and others that may appear superficial but actually can often be systemic and life threatening, psychologically as well as physically. Amid sensitive, sometimes graphic portrayals of the lives and near-death experiences of two burn victims, from the moment fire first touched their skin to postrecovery status, and moving portraits of burn unit staffers, Ravage recounts historic fire tragedies and traces the variety of treatment options often employed in the quest to treat and understand the full scope of fire injuries. --Donna Chavez Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Science writer Ravage delivers a fascinating and unflinching look behind the scenes at the nationally acclaimed burn unit of Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. The reader is warned early on that the unit is "no place for the squeamish," and the book details numerous examples of the hard work that its doctors and nurses must perform, such as the excision of dead skin that "comes off like peels of rubber cement." But Ravage is never gratuitously graphic, and she displays solid research and reporting skills in presenting the historical and the personal sides of burn injuries. She provides an excellent historical context to the development of burn treatments, from Boston's infamous Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942 through last year's fire at a Rhode Island music club. She also uses the experiences of two former burn patients and their families (names changed at their request) to show in detail how doctors and nurses treat horrific burns. Her greatest success is in interweaving these two sides, such as her explanation of how ideas have evolved in the areas of respiratory injury, shock and the surface treatment of burn wounds, which brings the reader much closer to truly understanding what the patients endure. This is an enlightening look at an important area of hospital care. Agent, Lane Zachary. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Ravage, a medical and science writer, gives readers an intensive course on burns and burn therapy, following two patients with severe wounds through Bigelow 13, the highly sophisticated burn unit of Massachusetts General Hospital. State-of-the-art burn therapy, the author reveals, results from a long medical history of chance discoveries, fruitful collaborations, and key people being in the right place at the right time. The dedicated, unique team approach that characterizes modern burn care is multidisciplinary, giving new meaning to the term intensive care. As the author's detailed account shows, burn care is hard work, punishing in its demands on both the body and the psyche of those involved, who must function at the highest level of professional competence while witnessing the excruciating pain of victims. A riveting and unforgettable account of burn wound history, therapy, and healing; highly recommended for all healthcare collections. James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. ix
Introductionp. xi
Prologue: A Life on Firep. 1
Chapter 1 Saturday Night at the Cocoanut Grovep. 3
Chapter 2 A Riot in the Bodyp. 21
Chapter 3 The Generalp. 47
Chapter 4 The Very Young, the Very Old, the Drunk, and the Stupidp. 61
Chapter 5 Bigelow 13p. 79
Chapter 6 In the Hyperbaric Chamberp. 95
Chapter 7 At the Bedsidep. 109
Chapter 8 Gasping for Breathp. 129
Chapter 9 The Scourge and the Silver Standardp. 145
Chapter 10 Cutting Off the Deadp. 167
Chapter 11 Healingp. 191
Chapter 12 New Skinp. 213
Chapter 13 Burned to Deathp. 227
Chapter 14 A New Lifep. 239
Notesp. 255
Acknowledgmentsp. 287
Indexp. 291