Canterbury burns victim to continue his recovery closer to home

Kevin Burney is all smiles as he prepares to come back to Canterbury. Photo: Supplied
Kevin Burney is all smiles as he prepares to come back to Canterbury. Photo: Supplied
"We have got a good future ahead," said Darfield man Kevin Burney to wife Amanda from his bed in Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

The 60-year-old has had the last of a series of painful skin graft operations, and is looking forward to coming back home to Canterbury for further recovery at Christchurch and Burwood hospitals next week.

Amanda has been by his side since his horrific accident on April 2.

Burney was grinding a steel drum in his Darfield driveway when it exploded in flames, resulting in burns to 70 per cent of his body.

His family have been in awe of his strength and determination to pull through and recover from life-threatening injuries.

"Some days we would go one step forward, the next day two steps back," Amanda said.

"It’s like walking into a maze - which way are we going to go now?"

His son Marcus spent last week by his father’s side, taking the time off work to go to the city.

"Now he’s not under any sedation anymore, apart from minimal pain relief. I think he does feel content, we have talked quite a bit about him coming home," Marcus said.

Kevin Burney has had wife Amanda by his side since his catastrophic April 2 accident. Photo:...
Kevin Burney has had wife Amanda by his side since his catastrophic April 2 accident. Photo: Supplied
He and Amanda said a major milestone occurred on Monday last week, when Burney took a bite of a chicken sandwich.

"His face lit up, because that was just so delicious,” Amanda said.

It was the first time he has had solid food since the accident, with everything up to that point being pureed.

He was still receiving nutrients and vitamins through a nose tube to his stomach, and this would be able to be removed once he was eating enough on his own.

Burney has been able to walk using a walker for some weeks now, and has a regular stroll down the hospital corridor to the gym where he undertakes rehabilitation exercises.

As his face was not badly burned, he had grown back his hair and eyebrows and was able to smile.

Amanda and Marcus said Burney had been most buoyed by having his family beside him, something which had been made possible with Givealittle campaign funds of more than $11,000 which had helped with accommodation and travelling expenses.

They particularly wanted to thank Selwyn resident Ray Seebeck, who donated a significant amount outside of the Givealittle campaign.

Kevin Burney has begun the long road to recovery as he begins to walk and exercise again. Photo:...
Kevin Burney has begun the long road to recovery as he begins to walk and exercise again. Photo: Supplied
Amanda said: "If we weren’t visiting him he would not really know he had a family, because time goes by, lying in bed not able to do anything.

"He just about cries when I come in, he’s just overjoyed to see me," Amanda said.

Skin graft surgeries had involved removing skin from unburned areas of his tummy and buttocks, to be grafted onto his torso, arms, hands, and the front and back of his thighs.

This was done at intervals of three weeks to allow the skin to grow back before it could be removed again.

The skin is stretched to three times its original size, with the help of a surgical pin-pricking tool.

Exercise is paramount following the surgeries to ensure the skin goes from being stiff to supple.

"Right now, he’s focused on getting that mobility," Marcus said.

"He can’t yet feed himself, because he can’t clench his hands because of the skin grafts," he added.

Burney will be fitted with a compression suit and transferred to Christchurch Hospital’s plastics unit, where he could spend up to two weeks, before undertaking rehabilitation at Burwood, where he could be for up to a month.

"The big aim is to be back at home in his own bed. He would probably want to go home now if we could," Amanda said.

It has been a long road to recovery at Middlemore Hospital for Kevin Burney after a metal drum...
It has been a long road to recovery at Middlemore Hospital for Kevin Burney after a metal drum exploded when he was cutting it with a grinder. Photo: Facebook
Burney has talked a little about the accident, but did not remember much.

He did remember what happened prior, however, and said he had only wanted to put a mark on the steel drum.

"I didn’t mean to grind into it, but the grinder went too far - and the rest is history," he told Amanda.

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