Wake of Grosvenor tragedy gives hope for burns survivors
MAY 6 2020 is a date etched in the minds of many.
For the Moranbah community, miners and the wider industry, it is the day five men and their families' lives changed forever in a matter of seconds.
Until now, the Grosvenor mine blast that left five miners with horrific burns injuries has been associated with grief and pain.
But a new initiative aims to turn the terrible tragedy into a lasting legacy of hope for other burns survivors around the world.
Grosvenor mine owner Anglo American has donated $1 million to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital Foundation.
The injured men were flown to the RBWH Burns Centre after being intubated at Moranbah Hospital following the devastating underground mine blast on May 6.
The centre's acting director Jason Brown and his team personally treated the miners in the months following.
While Dr Brown had never dealt with a mining incident of this scale, he said the experienced team of six surgeons usually faced "burn disasters" involving multiple patients every five years.
The team at the Professor Stuart Pegg Burns Centre also treated the victims of the Ravenshoe cafe explosion of 2015.
"We get multiple burns victims every few years, so we're quite used to dealing with it, but it's never easy," Dr Brown said.
Four of the Grosvenor miners were hooked up to ventilators and in a coma when they arrived in Brisbane.
"They got to us when they were asleep. They probably don't remember the first few weeks of their hospitalisation," Dr Brown said.
"Some of these guys had significant injuries with up to half of their body burnt.
"We basically had two weeks of multiple operations, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
"It is very much a team effort that goes into the care of these people to help them get to the other side."
Thanks to the work of doctors, nurses and health staff in both Moranbah and Brisbane, all five men miraculously survived.
But while the hard part is now over for Dr Brown and his team, it is only just starting for the men.
"The hard part for the patients are the next couple of years with rehab, scar management, (dealing with) the psychological impact and the burden on the family," he said.
"I think that's where (the men) are at now and they have got a long way to go.
"Whereas, for us, we move on and start treating the next case.
"There are certainly two phases (in the treatment of burns) - the very acute phase where we are trying to save their lives. Then there is a recovery phase which is much longer and much harder for the patients and their families."
Dr Brown said some of Anglo American's donation would go towards helping this recovery phase.
The donation is the largest corporate philanthropic gift the foundation has ever received.
It will be invested into RBWH Foundation Research Fellowships and innovative research projects at the Herston Biofabrication Institute and Queensland Skin Culture Centre.
RBWH Foundation chief executive Simone Garske said the hospital had one of the lowest mortality rates for burns internationally because of the patient care delivered at its burns centre.
"This donation will ensure RBWH can continue to lead the world with groundbreaking research into burns, trauma, wounds and skin culture research," Ms Garske said.
"It will also help develop Queensland's first burns-specific psychological service and enhance existing peer support programs."
Dr Brown said the investment in the research program would help RBWH address a research gap in psychological support for burns survivors.
"These outcomes, through clinical research and innovation, will not only improve the outcomes for our RBWH patients but will contribute to the body of knowledge that is shared around the world," he said.
"RBWH already has excellent patient treatment and care but just as important for burns survivors is psychological support once they are discharged from hospital and transitioning back to everyday life."
Anglo American's metallurgical coal business chief executive Tyler Mitchelson said the donation had been made out of respect and appreciation for the hospital.
"We wanted to recognise the incredible care provided this year to our five colleagues from Grosvenor mine," he said.
" … Our hope is that the donation will make a meaningful contribution to improving outcomes for all burns and trauma patients, through clinical research, innovation and ongoing patient support."
Share your story and photos with us: Daily Mercury