The boy with spray-on skin: Two-year-old horrifically scalded by spilt cup of tea makes amazing recovery after pioneering surgery
A brave toddler who suffered horrific burns after knocking over a cup of tea has made a remarkable recovery after doctors sprayed him with a new layer of skin.
Two-year-old Zed Merrick was left with second-degree burns across his chest and shoulder after a steaming cup of tea fell off a kitchen worktop at his home in Lincolnshire.
His mother Nicky Merrick, 33, feared he would be left with disfiguring scars for the rest of his life – but four months after the treatment, the bright red marks have almost completely disappeared.
Life-changing surgery: Zed Merrick is laughing and injury-free after doctors used a revolutionary new treatment on his lurid scars – spraying his own skin cells on to the marks
Doctors sprayed a solution made from Zed’s own skin cells to over his burns as part of a pioneering new treatment.
Mrs Merrick said the result was 'incredible' and she hopes her son will now be able to forget the trauma of his terrifying accident.
She said: 'This new procedure made a huge difference to Zed and we just want to promote it so that other people can receive it too.
'The first time they took the bandages off we were just like “wow” – the way it worked so quickly was incredible.
'In a normal procedure, Zed would have had to have his bandages changed almost every day which can be very painful.
'We just want to say thank you to the surgeons for helping our little boy, I never dreamed he could look like this again.'
Survivor: Four months after his treatment, Zed looks like any other happy-go-lucky child
Zed suffered his appalling injuries on October 13 last year at the home in Ulceby, Lincs, where he lives with his businesswoman mother Nicola and father Chunky, a sound-engineer.
Mrs Merrick said: 'It happened within seconds, Zed is like lightning, I just couldn’t believe it – it was like every parent’s worst nightmare.
'My mum was with us and she took his shirt off him and bits of his skin peeled off with it. We rushed him straight into the shower to try and cool the wound but but it was hard because Zed was screaming and struggling in my arms.
Toddler's trauma: The boy will escape years of painful surgery and skin grafts as the spray-on skin will stretch as he grows
'We kept try to put cold wet towels on him but we had to keep changing them because they just warmed up on his body. You could see the skin peeling off straight away, it was horrendous.
'Zed was clinging to me and crying, I remember I was wearing a black fluffy jumper and bits of the fluff were sticking to his chest. It was hard – I didn’t want to fluff to stick to him, but I knew he needed to be cuddled.
'He was like a wild animal in my arms, thrashing about and screaming, it was terrible to have to see.'
The toddler was rushed to the specialist burns unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, Yorks, where surgeons operated on him for two hours.
Doctors used a technology called ReCell Spray-On Skin, developed by Cambridge-based Avita Medical.
The dead skin is removed before a small sample of healthy skin, around the size of a postage stamp, is removed from the patient’s body.
This sample is then placed in the ReCell machine, which uses an enzyme to break down the healthy skin so that it can be suspended in solution.
The solution is then placed into a standard syringe fitted with a nozzle which is used to spray the skin cells over the damaged area.
Special dressings are then applied, but there is no danger of the body rejecting the cells because they come from the patient’s own body.
The dressings gradually lift off themselves as the skin underneath heals, so the patient does not have to go through the painful process of changing them every day.
Zed will also escape needing painful skin grafts and scar treatment throughout his life, because the sprayed-on skin will stretch with his body as he grows.
The ReCell technology has been around for seven years but few surgeons in Britain perform it and Zed is believed to be one of the youngest to receive it.
Jeremy Rawlins, the consultant plastic surgeon at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust who treated Zed, said that one of the reasons the treatment is still rare in this country is because of the cost to NHS trusts.
Mr Rawlins estimates Zed’s operation cost 5,000, but the figure varies between NHS trusts. The ReCell machine costs 800.
Doctors used a technology called ReCell Spray-On Skin, developed by Cambridge-based Avita Medical. The dead skin is removed before a small sample of healthy skin, around the size of a postage stamp, is removed from the patient's body
The sample is placed in the ReCell machine, which uses an enzyme to break down the healthy skin so that it can be suspended in solution
Mr Rawlins said: 'The NHS Trust aren’t so interested in the big long term savings. The automatic response is a reluctance to embrace new technology because they are afraid of the costs.
'The ReCell technology is an upfront investment but you have to look at the bigger picture this technology saves on the number of hospital visits a patient needs, saves on the nursing requirements, saves on the painkillers needed, I really believe it is a revolution in care.
'You just can’t put a price on the quality of comfort and care a child receives in our hospitals. And when you get a good result like Zed’s it makes it all worthwhile.'
Spray-on skin technology caused a storm across Britain last year when it was covered by Mail Online.
Doctor Jrg Gerlach, of the University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, developed a system similar to ReCell, which regenerates healthy skin stem cells from the victim and sprays it on burned skin.
Stem cells are known for their ability to renew themselves and act as a repair system for the body.
Claire Darby, a clinical manager from
Avita Medical, said: 'ReCell is slightly different to the spray-gun
because in that situation, cells are cultured and sent to a lab.
is a one step process – you clip a nozzle on to a syringe and a thin
layer of skin can begin to appear in just seven days.
'The technology has only been used to treat around 4,500 people worldwide. It was licensed for sale in Europe in 2005 but is often only used by burns units as a last resort.
'With traditional techniques they'll dress a burn for a period and then consider a graft –
ReCell can treat a burn after just 48 hours.
'This can be especially important for
children as they can go home quickly and don't have to keep going in
for repeat procedures. Also the longer a wound is left open, the higher
the risk of scarring.
'This reduces the risk of scarring and infection.'
Patients are vulnerable to dangerous infections as they heal and some burns victims can die while they are waiting, even with the right care and dressing.
Dr Steven Wolf, of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, said his aim was to get as much healthy skin back as possible within just a week.
'The standard techniques we have now takes weeks and months and people can die while waiting for the skin to heal,' he said.
Matthew Uram, a state police officer from Pennsylvania, was one of the first people to be treated by the spray-gun after he received severe second degree burns after attending a friend's bonfire party in July 2010.
The doctors told Mr Uram he was a candidate for the U.S. procedure and asked him if he would be interested.
He said: 'It looked like a gun from Star Wars or something. But I agreed.'
Four days after the treatment, his skin was completely healed.
Doctor Gerlach said: 'It is like a paint sprayer but you need a more sophisticated, computer-controlled device.'