SETAUKET, N.Y. -- Pineapples, known to have many impressive health benefits, are now being used to treat patients with deep burns.
A Long Island man severely burned by his fire pit was one of the first patients to receive the treatment since the Food and Drug Administration gave approval.
"Just to be in a ball of flame was indescribable," said Charles Garrison.
Garrison, a disabled Mastic man, was burned while using his backyard fire pit.
"It flashed up and the gas came out, hit my leg and I went up like a torch," he said. "The pants I was wearing melted and when I took the pants off that were on fire, the skin slid off the leg."
Just one month later, he's healing without any of the surgery or skin grafting that's been the standard of deep burn care for decades.
Garrison's burned legs are still tough to look at, but vastly improved thanks to the novel new treatment recently approved by the FDA.
"It wouldn't have been available if I did it the day before. I just lucked out," said Garrison.
Stony Brook Medicine doctors called it a game changer. Garrison was among the first in the nation to be treated with NexoBrid, cream derived from the stems and cores of pineapples
"Enzymes present in the pineapple, bromelain is actually the enzyme which actually does all of the work for us," said Dr. Steven Sandoval, medical director at Stony Brook Medicine's burn center.
The cream dissolves the burned, dead tissue and stops at healthy tissue.
"Within four hours, it completely dissolves the dead tissue. It's very selective, so it leaves the normal tissue alive," said Dr. Adam Singer.
"Patients can have this done and not require any surgical intervention," said Sandoval.
The treatment came to Stony Brook by way of Israel, where Singer trained 30 years ago. He recently completed a study on its effectiveness.
"This has completely revolutionized the was we take care of burns," said Singer.
In a matter of months, Garrison will begin to seek actual skin and hair instead of enduring months of surgery and painful skin grafts.
"To a burn surgeon, this is fantastic. This is, you're showing signs of healing, the growth of new skin, new tissue," said Sandoval.
Garrison's scars are expected to look as good, if not better, than skin grafting.
"He offered me no promises, but gave be the world," said Garrison. "So now everybody calls me the pineapple guy. When I make my appointments, it's the pineapple treatment."
The drug was also developed for mass casualty events when a large number of people have suffered burns.
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