Dean's Story

“On 20 March 2011 my Dad’s life changed forever. He was working on the railway overhead lines in Cricklewood, North London, and was approaching the end of his night shift, around 7am when he was electrocuted with 25,000 live vaults. He was rushed to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and seen immediately by Mr Jorge Leon-Villapalos, surgeon at the hospital’s Burns Service.

Dad’s injuries were severe. He had been left with 45% burns all over his body, his chest, arms, back, neck and some on his face. It was horrific.  It was awful to see my Dad in that way, he’s always been my hero since I was a little boy. It was really harrowing.

Dad stayed on the Burns Service ward for a month during which he had numerous operations and skin grafts. He has consistently seen Mr Leon-Villapalos ever since, who told Dad he would be a friend and colleague for the rest of his life. He guided Dad through with other health issues which occurred as a result of his accident and has been a constant support for him. He always recognised and chatted to me when I visited Dad or accompanied him for subsequent appointments, which I found astonishing. This man must see hundreds of people every year and yet he still took the time to come over and say “Hello Dean, how are you? How’s your wife, Lucy?” It is just amazing, for him to show such care for our whole family, not just Dad.

I didn’t know what to expect with Dad’s recovery, but it has been unbelievable considering how he was just after the accident. The skin grafts and operations were very successful and he is a million times better than he was. He still has a way to go, but especially in the last six months with the skin grafts settling, his recovery has been really noticeable.

I believe Mr Leon-Villapalos saved my Dad’s life on that day and I knew then I wanted to do something to express my gratitude. Setting up a standing order to donate to Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity monthly was simple and only took a couple of minutes. I give as much as I can afford, and will continue to give.  When I can afford to increase my donation, I won’t think twice about doing so. It’s great to know my money is specifically helping others with burns injuries. I know from Dad’s accident that your needs as a burns patient don’t just stop once you leave hospital, but to learn that 52% of burns patients have on-going psychological issues following their injury is staggering. To know that my money has contributed to the hospital having a full-time burns psychologist is fantastic.

It was an easy choice for me to set up a regular donation to Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity and I will continue to do so forever more.”

Mr Jorge Leon-Villapalos spoke to us about Rob’s experience, he says: “Rob Choules suffered devastating, life-changing burn injuries. The burns team along with an extremely supportive family and a determined and compliant patient turned a burn victim into a burn survivor. We are honoured and fortunate to have supporters like Dean, who contribute to the continuous improvement of our unit. We are immensely grateful to Dean, and endeavour to continue guiding Rob towards his full recovery and rehabilitation.”

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital provides the regional Burns Service for all of London and the South East, providing surgery and care for over 3,000 patients every year. It helps patients who have suffered small scalds to those with major burns who require lifesaving organ support.

With Dean’s support, we successfully completed our two-year appeal for a burns psychologist. Our commitment to improving healthcare for the burns community continues with a £575,000 research appeal, which Dean’s regular donation is contributing to. With the money we raise from the appeal and working with the hospital’s academic partner, Imperial College, we will be able to investigate inflammation, pain management, immune response and lung injury. Our findings will ultimately deliver a new standard of care for the 13,000 burns sufferers treated in the UK annually.

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