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The Healing Foundation: 'Suffer the Little Children'

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It's every parent's nightmare. Afternoon tranquility cut by a piercing yell from the kitchen, your fresh cup of tea scalding your precious child. Or unplugging your hair straighteners, leaving them on the floor forgetting how hot they still are and your toddler stepping onto them to a cacophony of screams.

Even for those without children, the thought of a one-year-old getting burned makes us cringe. And it's incredibly common, too. According to statistics from The Children's Burns Research Centre, the UK sees up to 90,000 children a year suffer from burns, with 10 a day being taken to regional burns treatment centres.

However, despite how common these types of injuries are, there are issues with the treatment available. For a start, children have nearly three times the body surface area to body mass ratio of adults. This means that they are far more prone to hypothermia, which has to be aggressively avoided. Children younger than two years old also have thinner layers of skin, which means that assessing how deep a burn is can be difficult. Spotting infection is also problematic.

Earlier this year, I was shocked to discover that despite these differences between the way adults and children's skin reacts to burns, little research is actually available on how to treat burns in children. That's why I became involved in promoting The Healing Foundation's Children's Burn initiative.

The Children's Burns Research Centre is a state-of-the-art research centre in the South West of England. It is the first of its kind in the UK, and will be watched by the international medical community as it attempts to battle the issues that face those treating young burn victims.

The centre prides itself on its multi-disciplinary slant, drawing in experts from the fields of nursing, psychology, epidemiology, paediatrics and many more. The Centre is led by the University of Bristol, alongside the University of Bath, the University of the West of England, Cardiff University and the North Bristol NHS Trust.

At the moment, the centre (working with University of Bath colleague Dr Toby Jenkins) is investing in research into a 'smart dressing', a bandage which will help indicate when infection is occurring by changing colour when infected cells are detected. This is essential, as at the moment it's difficult to differentiate between an infected burn and the skin's normal inflammatory response in children.

My work advocating this organisation comes from my own harrowing experience of burns. I fell into the media spotlight in October 1999 after the Paddington Train Crash, becoming known as 'the lady in the mask' after I suffered extensive burns, which forced me to wear a perspex mask for over a year.

From this experience it seems obvious to me that children's burns should be treated differently to those of adults. I was an adult when I was burnt and subsequently scarred but, though difficult and traumatic at times, I was able to rationally deal with the physical impact the burns left me with and understood the help given to me to cope with the psychological trauma. Yet how would it be possible to explain all this to a child in terms that they would understand and be able to take comfort from?

Reflecting on the centre's aims, I thought about how much worse all this would be for a child who would have to go through puberty, peer pressure, dating, getting married. Having gone through my own struggle, I am acutely aware of the psychological impacts of serious burns and would want to try to help any child avoid facing the same. My involvement with the centre therefore came naturally.

What's truly innovative about the centre is the way that it aims to tackle this experience. They do this by working on not only the physical but the psychological damage of burns and, perhaps most importantly, by creating ways to help in the prevention of burns by dialogue and inclusion of manufacturers and trade in some of the more common pieces of equipment involved in child injuries.

Having visited the centre, met the team and listened to their hopes and aspirations for their work I am enthused and excited to be part of the process and sincerely hope that I can add value to their goals for the future.

Pam Warren's new book - "From Behind the Mask" - Coming 4 March 2014 - The inspiring true story.

Pam's new book 'From Behind the Mask' will be released in March and tells the story of Pam's experience before, during and since the Paddington train crash.

To keep up to date on the book publication follow @pamwarren06 or www.pamwarren.co.uk

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