MedWatch Today: Former Burn Survivor Gets Doctorate Degree to Become Physical Therapist

Med Watch Today

A young man from Wasco proves it’s never too late to turn things around. A car accident severely burned more than half of his body, but instead of allowing those injuries to define him, he found a way to redefine his own life.

We met Francisco Padilla back in 2018, six years after he spent10 and a half months at the Leon S. Peter’s Burn Center. He sustained burns on 70-percent of his body after he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car into a pole. We got an update on his life today, and he reminds us he wouldn’t be where is he without the staff at Community Regional.

Life is now full of laughter and smiles for Francisco. He can walk and move – things he didn’t think he was going to be able to do in 2012 when he was hospitalized at the Burn Center.

“For a long time throughout my process here at the hospital, I kept going through surgeries. My legs were very, very badly burned and I had been bed bound for so long that just with muscle atrophy on it’s own, and then you add the burns to that. I couldn’t walk, I didn’t have no range of motion because the burns were so bad,” explained Francisco.

Shana Henry is a registered nurse and a burn injury prevention specialist at Community Regional. She detailed Francisco’s injuries, “He had severe burns, second and third degree burns all over his body… So we’re an ABA, American Burn Association verified burn center, which is a very highly esteemed certification that our burn center holds. And within that, that means that we meet certifications, and we can provide essentially comprehensive health care for our patients and within that, a physical therapist sees our patients within 24 hours and does the initial assessment.”

Enter physical therapist Ace Santoyo, the man who encouraged Francisco in more ways than he could have ever imagined.

“A lot of times he said, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. And it was just a matter of showing him, have you tried it? And so, so it basically was just kind of redirecting them, what he was thinking that he could not do, but he was capable but he just chose not to,” said Ace.

Francisco added, “He took me through the range of motion. He would make sure that I was stretching every day, he would come and stretch me even though I was in so much pain, he would give me exercises to do.”

Physical therapy helped Francisco push through his multiple surgeries.

“So receiving physical therapy, early on, directly translates to better outcomes once they are healed. Early mobility decreases mortality rate. Early mobility, decreases the occurrence of whether they get to ventilator associated pneumonia or pneumonia in the hospital. So, we want to keep patients up and at them as much as we can and that’s why our therapy teams are so important,” Shana stated.

But Ace helped Francisco with more than his physical recovery, he became someone he looked up to. Francisco explains his life at that time was not something he was proud of. He’d served time in prison and didn’t have much direction.

Francisco said, “I didn’t grow up having like goals and dreams of my life pertained to just getting in trouble… Didn’t really have no role models, didn’t have no one to look up to.”

And Ace inspired Francisco to pursue education once again.

“Go to college, ‘Well I haven’t even finished high school’. Well go back and finish your high school, go to graduate, get your degree, get your diploma. and then strive to become someone, somebody in college. ‘I want to become a therapist’, okay then, perfect. Let’s try to become a physical therapist better yet, let’s get you to become a physical therapist in the Burn Center, since you have, you know, first-hand knowledge and experience being on this side of the coin,” Ace said.

And that’s exactly what Francisco is doing today. He became the first person in his family to attend college and, “I’ll be graduating in December with my Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree.”

“One thing that he always said was, no one,” Ace paused as he got emotional, and continued to say, “He always said no one believed in me, but you did.”

Francisco ended, “I’m grateful for everything that happened to me… Now I feel like I can give someone else hope and give someone else a chance, you know? Like if this guy can do it, why can’t I?”

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