For years, Tucson residents subjected to traumatic burns were forced to travel two hours north to Maricopa for treatment.

Southern Arizona didnt have a designated burn unit to treat those patients.

All of that changed when Banner – University Medical Center created its own burn program four years ago.

Prior to its creation, any burn greater than 20% had to be transferred out, said Dr. Lourdes Castan, who was tapped to create the program and serves as its director.

Any post-operative care, (families) would have to follow up in Phoenix, as well, Castan said. It was a financial strain. It was a time constraint for the family. Some of our patients dont have transportation. A lot of them didnt follow-up.

The program gave Southern Arizonans the opportunity to get treated closer to home.

We began taking all forms of burns, all degrees, Castan said. Its a multi-disciplinary approach. We have access here to vascular surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, so we have been able to save arms, legs, wounds and limbs that would traditional probably just get an amputation.

Castan put together a team of specialized doctors, nurses and therapists to treat patients.

We have a meeting every Monday with absolutely every team member thats going to be involved in (a patients) care, Castan said. My role is to put together a care package thats encompassing of pretty much all factors of life that would affect these patients.

Right now, they offer clinic three times a week.

Ideally, we would like to have a clinic that is 24/7, Castan said.

Alonzo Yates comes to the clinic for a second-degree burn he suffered on his leg.

Theyve been very helpful, Yates said.

With modern technology, theyve been able to treat even more patients.

We are one of the sites that started with the sprayable skin, and we are using that in combination with technology we have available, Castan said. Now we just have to take tissue the size of a quarter and just spray it on. We have been able to close wounds that are 20 to 30 years old.

Precious Anderson spent the last two years seeking treatment for an underskin ulcer that erupted due to malnutrition.

It got infected right away, turned black, I got referred to wound care, Anderson said. Bounced around a number of clinics around town. No one could quite figure it out. Multiple graft surgeries didnt take.

Thats when she came to the burn unit at Banner.

Dr. Castan got it in one shot, Anderson said.

The burn program also treated Anderson for a third-degree burn she received on her hip from a heating pad.

Two years later and she is almost at the finish line.

They look good, Anderson said. Im sure I am going to be left with battle wounds or whatever, but I am going to wear them with pride because it was my journey.

Anderson has been thankful for the treatment she has received from the burn unit.

They gave me back my life, she said.