When Troy Vest entered the cement cooler at work to complete a few repairs, he could never have imagined how dramatically his life was about to change. After only a few minutes in the massive cooler, Troy’s co-worker said he smelled sulfur, and sensing danger, the men raced for the 18-inch by 18-inch exit. They were quickly engulfed in powdered, glowing red cement with a temperature over 1,000 degrees. With their skin literally falling off, the men crawled through the exit and jumped off of a 15-foot high catwalk.
“Once we got out, I kept thinking ‘is this really happening?’” said Troy. “The pain was so intense, it was mind-blowing.”
Troy was airlifted Parkland’s Burn Center, where he did not realize where he was for the first four weeks of his stay. Troy suffered deep, third degree burns over 80 percent of his body, and underwent multiple surgeries during his four months in the hospital.
With his wife by his side, Troy underwent a grueling recovery. His days consisted of intense wound care, physical therapy and occupational therapy. A tough and energetic man, Troy soon won over the staff.
“Troy was spirited and ready to fight,” said Stephanie Campbell, burn program manager at Parkland. “He underwent very painful therapies, and he always had a smile on his face and a joke to share. He really was a remarkable patient.”
Building relationships is at the heart of the work performed on the unit.
“Our patients with the most severe injuries, like Troy, can be here for months on end, and so they become like part of our family,” added Stephanie. “We get to know them and their families as we help them through the crisis and during recovery.”
For Troy, recovery after leaving the hospital took more than two years.
“It’s been a long road, and what the human body can endure is unimaginable,” said Troy. “With the staff in Parkland’s burn unit and their great knowledge and care, they made the healing process much better than it might have been.”
Troy had two sons prior to his injury and was blessed with a baby girl – his “beautiful little angel” – during his recovery. Troy now lifts weights every day, rides motocross and plays basketball with his kids. He has also returned to college and is studying for a career in radiology.
“My injury was a tragedy that I wish hadn’t happened, but I am still here telling my story, and it has made me a better man,” said Troy.
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