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Dan’s Fund for Burns with Polly Brooks MBE

Over the last 18 months, Physiquipe have been working with Dans Fund For Burns (DFFB) who have donated 12 LymphaTouch devices to NHS burn centres and units across the UK. Polly, Founder and Director at DFFB, has done so much for the charity since they established in 2003. After recent laser surgery, Polly has been using the LymphaTouch to help improve the functionality of her scars and has seen an improvement from her recent session and laser surgery. It’s great to see Polly seeing the benefits of using the device, as many burn patients have seen from her hard work at DFFB and supporters generosity with raising funds for the LymphaTouch devices.
An amazing charity and we’re so glad we had the chance to speak with Polly to see how she got on…
My name is Polly and over 17 years ago I was unlucky enough to be caught up in the bombings on the beautiful island of Bali. My husband, Dan, best-friend Annika and the rest of our rugby team from HK were visiting the island for the Bali 10s rugby tournament. That fateful night we headed to the Sari Club, a well-known local expat bar/nightclub. Within minutes of our arrival, a van full of explosives were detonated on the street directly outside the club. My husband and friends were all killed but somehow, I survived, pulling myself out of the building and running along the roof to safety. Sadly, not before I was burned badly by the fire the explosives caused.
Recovering in Australia, where I was evacuated to initially and then back in the UK at home with my parents, I tried to deal with the emotional recovery, to make some sense from what had happened. It was a very dark time and I knew I had to do something positive to make something good from what seemed to me to be a very senseless act of violence. So, in the Jan following, at my late husband’s memorial, I announced the launch of DFFB, an adult burns charity, set up in memory of Dan and the others that died. Little did we know then that the charity would still be going 17 years later and that it would become a well-respected source of help to burn survivors and the NHS burn services across the UK.
A couple of years ago, we were approached by Janine Evans, an advanced practitioner burns occupational therapist from Swansea Bay University Health board and asked whether we would consider buying a mechanical massage machine for a patient they had. It was a young male who lived over 100 miles away from the hospital with 87% burns from a gas explosion and it was going to be impossible for him to make it to the unit for massaging or for his family to cope with the large amount of skin needing massaging.  Massage and moisturising and compression garments are the post-operative treatments for burn scarring and can be time consuming and very tiring in large quantities. The massage breaks down the scar tissue and stimulates blood flow to the area to help the skin heal and tissue recover.
The Trustees considered the request and was delighted to purchase a small machine that this chap could have at home for as long as he needed and could then be returned to the burns unit in due course. This however, got Janine thinking and she approached DFFB for a larger machine, a LymphaTouch machine for the Swansea burns unit and put us in touch with Dominic and Mary at Physiquipe to arrange this purchase. The Trustees decided to ask Janine for a six month review of the machine and then decide whether we would be willing to roll it out and offer a machine to each of the burns centres and units around the UK.
After 6 months the feedback was positive and so DFFB approached the burns centres and units across the country with the offer and on the condition they asked for patient feedback forms to be filled in to give us some idea of the effectiveness of this treatment. It took some time to organise and purchase all the machines but in the end we bought 12 machines.
With my own 43% burns, over the years my scarring had tightened and left me with some nasty banding and contractures. Three or so years ago, it became intolerable and I went back to my burns unit at East Grinstead and received a series of z-plasty operations which was followed up with some laser surgery at Chelsea & Westminster in early March of this year (just sneaked in pre Covid-19 lockdown!).
When I was booked into the laser surgery I was told that to improve and maximise the benefits from the laser surgery it would be important for me to come back to the centre twice a week to get treatment from their LPG machine. This would be tricky for me being a single mum, working and the subsequent lockdown, so cheekily, I approached Dominic at Physiquipe and asked him whether there was a demo I could borrow for a few weeks.
I was lucky that Dominic had one spare and was able to lend it to me. The LymphaTouch arrived approximately one week after my laser surgery which was concentrated on the banding down my left-hand side and stomach and tightness in my left shoulder area. Dominic was kind enough to do a zoom tutorial on how best to use the machine and I set to work.
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When I started work on the skin it was very scaly as it was healing from the initial laser work. Before using the LymphaTouch, you are to moisturise the area well. The skin needs the moisturiser to help it heal but also it helps the machine to move over the area. I have been using mostly the pulse setting at around 160-165 strength… This basically means the LymphaTouch sucks up the affected skin and pulses it, then I twist and move the machine head to the neighbouring skin and work over the affected area like this a few times (depending on how long I have to do the session!)…
Initially, the skin looks rather battered and more red when I have finished. It doesn’t hurt but it is an odd but rather comforting sensation, specifically on my stomach where there is more fat and it sucks it up nicely!  Where there is less fat the machine picks the skin up less. My daughter does my shoulder for me as I am unable to reach that area myself. I would like longer on my shoulder if I am honest but there is only so long a 10 year old can be bothered to do it for!
An hour or so after the treatment, the skin calms down and over time I have noticed the skin becoming flatter and smoother and the colour paling down. My understanding is the LymphaTouch is able to lift the skin higher with its suction than you could do manually (where you tend to press down on the skin)… This allows the tissue underneath the skin to plump up and allows more blood to the area to help it heal.
I have been using the LymphaTouch every other day and each session takes me about 20-30 mins depending on how long I can spare. I tend to try and do it before bed or after my shower in the morning. I am now on week 6 of using the LymphaTouch and I definitely feel the machine gives a better result than manual massage and am glad that DFFB took the decision to fund 12 for around the country which will allow burn survivors to access this treatment within their NHS environment.
Thank you to Dominic and Mary at Physiquipe for allowing me to use the LymphaTouch machine.
Before and after the LymphaTouch treatment
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