Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Burn survivor resumes life as an active teenager

Tyrone Crawford Jr. loves sports. Coming from an athletic family, the Tallahassee teenager played his first football game at age 6. It was a passion that would continue through his middle and high school years.

But after a serious car accident left him with burns across 45 percent of his body, he feared he would never play his favorite sport again.

Tyrone, then 14, was returning from a day of crab fishing in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19, 2013, when the car he was riding in slammed into a utility pole, causing downed electrical wires to drape over the vehicle, according to his father, Tyrone Crawford Sr. As the teen got out of the vehicle, he brushed up against a live wire.

Tyrone Sr. said his son was rushed via ambulance to a local hospital. Given the extent of his injuries from the electric shock, the teen was brought to UF Health Shands Hospital by helicopter for specialized pediatric trauma care.

“His injuries were very severe. He had third-degree flame and electrical burns across his chest, abdomen and both legs,” said
pediatric surgeon Shawn Larson, MD, an assistant professor of surgery in the UF College of Medicine. Eventually, the teen’s left leg below the knee was amputated because of the burn injury.

Tyrone Jr. underwent numerous surgeries, including skin grafts and wound debridement. Because of the extent and size of the burns, surgeons had to take numerous grafts of skin from his back.

“He had months of healing ahead of him,” Larson said.

Larson obtained special approval to use a technique that would speed Tyrone Jr.’s healing time. A lab in New England essentially “grew” skin from samples of the teenager’s own tissue to use as skin grafts across the burned areas. Larson estimated the specialized technique decreased Tyrone Jr.’s healing time by three to four months.

Four months, nine days and numerous surgeries later, Tyrone Jr. was finally discharged from the hospital, including two weeks at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, where he underwent occupational, recreational and physical therapy.

Larson said Tyrone Sr. played a large role in his son’s recovery. He slept by his son’s bedside every night, only leaving for an hour or two at a time to shower and change clothes. He made sure his son was up and out of bed, ready for each therapy session.

“The nurses and doctors took very good care of me. I had my bad days, but they were good people who treated me well,” Tyrone Jr. said.

His father agreed. “All of the staff on the burn unit were so patient with my son. They really did everything they could to get him better.”

Approximately one year after Tyrone Jr. was discharged from the hospital, he got a specialized high-impact sports prosthesis and he was back to his normal routine.

“Football was a little bit of a challenge at first,” he said. “It was just great being back out on the field and playing again.”

He has since graduated from high school and is now attending a three-year educational program in Georgia.

“I am happy that my son is back on his feet and off on his own,” Tyrone Sr. said.

About the Author

Karin Lillis's picture

Karin Lillis

Science Writer, Surgery

Karin Lillis joined the UF Health staff in December 2015 as a science writer and covers the department of surgery in the UF College of Medicine. She has more than 20...Read More

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