SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Last November, 53-year-old Rogelio Garcia suffered life altering burns to most of his body. At best, patients with deep burns have just over 60 percent chance of survival – Garcia’s was only 20 percent. however, his doctors were able to give him a fighting chance by doing something remarkable – growing his own skin.

It’s a new beginning for Rogelio Garcia. With his brother looking on, he is trying to move past what happened to him just a few months ago. He was found by his local firefighters on fire and unconscious.

“I felt the fire go up my body,” Garcia demonstrates for Ivanhoe.

At the time, Clifford Sheckter, MD, Associate Director of Regional Burn Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said Garcia’s chance for survival was 20 percent. The hospital worked tirelessly to save him then, remove dead tissue. That left doctors with a unique challenge.  

“Sixty-five to 70 percent of his total body surface area was burned. You only have 30 percent of your skin available to take to heal the rest of that,” Dr. Sheckter explained.

Skin grafts alone couldn’t cover the wounds, so doctors used an innovative treatment called EpiCel. Five thousand square centimeters of his skin was grown inside a lab – all originating from the stem cells of Garcia’s own skin.

Dr. Sheckter says, “The outer layer of our skin is called the epidermis and it’s one of the few tissues in our body that can actually regenerate.”

EpiCel was just one of nine operations that Garcia had while he was in a coma for two months.

“My brother told me everything that happened. I survived and that’s wonderful,” Garcia expresses.

After lots of physical therapy, Garcia was released from the hospital just four months after his accident. Doctors credit the EpiCel treatment and his determination for his quick progress.

“Rogelio is an absolute fighter,” Dr. Sheckter exclaims.

According to the EpiCel website, burn patients who undergo their treatment have shown an increased survival rate of more than 80 percent. Dr. Sheckter says, unfortunately, donor skin can never heal a burn because the body always rejects donor skin. 

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Producer; Joe Alexander, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.