Three days after a plane crash left former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM with severe burns on their bodies, doctors say the musicians are likely to survive. But burn specialists say the stars will face a long, painful recovery.
Barker and DJ AM, or Adam Goldstein, escaped a runway Learjet crash in West Columbia, S.C., with second- and third-degree burns to their bodies. Goldstein suffered burns to his head and arm; Barker to his torso and lower body.
The two pilots, Barker's assistant Chris "Lil Chris" Baker and bodyguard and Charles "Che" Stills died in the crash.
Jennie Weinman, the representative for Goldstein and Barker, said the men are in stable but critical condition.
"It can take up to a year to heal," said Dr. Fred Mullins, medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, where the two stars are receiving treatment. "We expect them to have a full recovery, that's all I can say."
Barker's and Goldstein's families asked Mullins not to disclose to the press the percentage of their bodies burned. But with any third-degree burns, the term "full recovery" can be misleading.
Even after a third-degree burn heals, "You'll be sensitive to the sun, and on those areas, you won't be able to perspire," said Dr. Roger Yurt, director of the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.
Further complications may include areas where hair will never grow again and tight scars contracted around joints that prohibit moving.
Burn trauma experts say Goldstein, 35, and Barker, 32, have their youth and the help of a burn trauma specialty center on their side. Still, medical advances have only changed the prognosis of a serious burn treatment from a deadly matter to a painfully slow treatment process.
"In years past we used to just add the percent burn of the body to the person's age and that would give you an idea of the percent chance that they will die," said Yurt.
That would mean a 30-year-old person who has third-degree burns on 30 percent of his or her body -- an area equivalent to the front torso and one arm -- would have a 60 percent chance of dying.
Doctors say without treatment, third-degree burns on just 15 percent of the body can become deadly.
"Once you get a burn above 15 percent roughly of the body surface area, the whole body has to respond to that injury … so it affects the lungs, the heart, the liver, all sorts of organs," said David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Northern California and a doctor in the U.C. Davis Medical Center.
"The first day or two is what we call burn shock," said Greenhalgh. "Your whole body swells in response."
Burn shock can be deadly without an IV to keep up bodily fluids, Greenhalgh said.
In addition to managing a whole-body blood flow response, Goldstein and Barker will also benefit from new surgery tactics that prevent once-common deadly infections. When it comes to infections, Greenhalgh said it's all a matter of degrees.
In a first-degree burn, patients are less susceptible to infection because they still have the epidermis, the layer that "keeps the water and everything else in, and keep the bugs out," explained Greenhalgh.