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'They gave me back my life:' Banner's burn program offers hope for patients

Posted: 1:43 PM, Feb 23, 2024
Updated: 2024-02-23 17:33:27-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — For years, Tucson residents subjected to traumatic burns were forced to travel two hours north to Maricopa for treatment.

Southern Arizona didn’t 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 Castañón, 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,” Castañón said. “It was a financial strain. It was a time constraint for the family. Some of our patients don’t have transportation. A lot of them didn’t follow-up.”

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

“We began taking all forms of burns, all degrees,” Castañón said. “It’s 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.”


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

“We have a meeting every Monday with absolutely every team member that’s going to be involved in (a patient’s) care,” Castañón said. “My role is to put together a care package that’s 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,” Castañón said.


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

“They’ve been very helpful,” Yates said.

With modern technology, they’ve 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,” Castañón 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

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 didn’t take.”

That’s when she came to the burn unit at Banner.

“Dr. Castañón 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. “I’m 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.


Heidi Alagha is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. Heidi spent 5 years as the morning anchor in Waco where she was named the best anchor team by the Texas Associated Press. Share your story ideas and important issues with Heidi by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.