For a burn victim who is enjoying his last days of summer before heading off to his first year of college, the last thing he wants to do is spend his time driving to and from St. Paul for checkups.
His problem was solved through interactive television.
Ben Frank, 18, Pequot Lakes, who is head cook at Trout Lake Camp in Pine River, suffered burns while at work July 13. While cleaning an exhaust hood over a deep fryer that was ready to cook french fries, the top of the deep fryer fell and sprayed hot oil on his left foot.
"Instead of frying the fries, it fried Ben's foot instead," said his mother, Annette Frank.
His foot received either second- or third-degree burns. He was treated in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Medical Center and later in the St. Paul burn unit of Regions Hospital, formerly known as the St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center.
During his six-day stay at Regions, Ben received a skin graft, which ended the infection on the burn site. A fiberglass cast was then put on his leg that extended from just under the knee to the foot, even covering the toes. The cast stayed on for five days.
"The lime-green color of the cast matched our porch furniture, so we told him to go sit out there," said Annette with a laugh. "They really need to work on their colors."
Ben was on crutches for three weeks, and now has full mobilization. The grafting is completely closed, and the doctors are keeping a watch on the wound to make sure healing occurs properly, with minimal scarring.
The Franks were wary about the 140-mile trip to St. Paul for checkups, so Jonathan Dodge, who works at Regions Hospital, looked around for the closest medical facility with interactive television capability. They found that Wadena and St. Cloud were the closest hospitals.
"We wanted to follow up with Ben as close to home as possible, and we couldn't find a place within 75 miles," said Dodge. "So we called and found out they had the equipment in Brainerd."
The Brainerd Regional Human Services Center has had interactive television for three years and relies on it in a variety ways. BRHSC can use the equipment for video conferencing or to meet with other colleagues and patients.
"It is an avenue of efficiency and cost effectiveness for us," said Mike Engler, a BRHSC spokesperson. "It allows a patient to be in Bemidji, and the doctor to be in Brainerd."
On Wednesday, Ben's interactive television checkup went smoothly. The large television allows Ben and his mom to see the nurse and the doctor, and the picture-in-picture feature allows them to see what the doctor is seeing.
There was no delay in the audio, it was as if they were on a normal speaker phone. The camera adjusted to zoom in on his foot, and the doctor was able to see the progress of the wound on the screen.
Ben received a good report on his progress, and he will return to work today. He leaves for Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, in one week and plans to major in engineering. He will have to find an interactive television somewhere in Sioux Center before his next appointment in six weeks.
Ben will have to wear Tubi-Grip socks for up to two years, and he will have to keep the wound protected from the sun. Since the burn is on his foot, he will also have to be careful not to get frostbite. If all goes well, he will regain all sensation in the burned area.
When Engler asked Ben whether he has been able to eat fried foods yet, Ben replied with a laugh, "I had my first deep fried food last week, and it tasted a little bit like foot."
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