Crash survivor Catrin Pugh overcomes odds thanks to burns unit at Whiston Hospital

St Helens Star: Grateful Catrin with Whiston-based burns surgeon Ian James and burns unit manager Donnas Wilkinson Grateful Catrin with Whiston-based burns surgeon Ian James and burns unit manager Donnas Wilkinson

MIRACLE girl Catrin Pugh will never forget Whiston Hospital’s Mersey burns unit team for saving her life, after she suffered 96 per cent burns in a horrific coach crash.

Catrin was given just a one-in-a-1,000 chance of survival after the crash in April 2013 in the French Alps, which happened as she was returning from four months working in a ski resort.

The then 19-year-old, who is from Wrexham, was trapped inside the burning wreckage, rescued and put into an induced coma in a French hospital.

With 96 per cent burns, only the soles of her feet and parts of her scalp were untouched.

Her recovery started when she was flown to the specialist burns unit at Whiston. Treatment costing more than £1m saw her have more than 200 operations. She received skin grafts from both her mum and her 23 year-old brother, Robert.

Grateful Catrin, now aged 20, told the Star: “Before this happened, I didn’t know Whiston Hospital existed – I’m glad it does! Since this happened, I’ve heard lots of good things about it.”

After arriving at Whiston, Catrin remained in a coma and stayed on a life support machine for 90 days.

Whiston burns surgeon Ian James, who has worked at the hospital for 20 years, praised the team for their dedication.

He said in 2008 the burns unit was having difficulty justifying its existence but people’s support won through.

“Without that support, we wouldn’t be here, and Catrin wouldn’t be alive. It’s thanks to the people of St Helens that she is,” he said.

“We combine modern and good, old-fashioned practices, but that wouldn’t have worked, if we not had such good nursing staff to make sure wounds were super clean.”

Victims who suffer 70 per cent burns tend not to survive if they are over the age of 12 years. But, he said, the survival rate at Whiston was higher than for burns victims in the USA.

Her first operation lasted more than five hours and involved removing burned tissue and skin grafting 40 per cent of her body. Small cells of Catrin’s skin were grown in a laboratory, before being sprayed on to her wounds to help them heal quickly.

She received grafts on her face, body and eyelids, and temperatures in theatres were increased by up to 30°C so she did not go into shock.

Catrin, who is hoping to gain a university place and pursue her interest in music and drama, added: “It's been really horrible but the pain is slowly improving. I have a good family around me and all the staff at Whiston have been really helpful – they are friends.”

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