Ralph Pagano’s entire body caught fire last month during a gas explosion while he was cooking in a restaurant in the Bahamas. He survived, but his injuries had left him unable to walk for the past three weeks. But on Monday he made laps around the burn rehabilitation therapy unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital, in part thanks to the unit’s new renovations.
“Thanks to the parallel bars set up over there I now have been able to walk,” said Pagano, 48, a chef and TV personality who was opening a new Naked Taco restaurant at Resorts World Bimini in the Bahamas when the accident happened. “The trampoline has allowed me to stretch out my legs and I’ve started to be able to put my feet completely down on the ground, which is something I couldn’t do because my skin has been all contractured.”
The renovations to the burn unit, which originally opened in 1962, were officially unveiled on Monday by Dr. Louis Pizano, director of the JMH burn center and chief of the division of burns for the University of Miami, and Carlos Migoya, executive director of Jackson Health System.
Burn patients have actually been receiving treatment on the new equipment for over a year, said Angel Alvarez,who has worked as an occupational therapist in the unit for 23 years.
Never miss a local story.
He said that the 20-year-old equipment that was there before the renovation was outdated, the technology was limited, and the cabinets were falling off the hinges. Now the center has a brand new trampoline, parallel bars, reupholstered mats, exercise balls, weight lifting equipment and more.
“Before we had one piece of equipment that we couldn’t use on multiple patients,” he said. “Now we have more patients on each individual mat. Also, we have more than one barbell for grasp activities, so we can use them for a variety of patients.”
Prior to the updates the unit treated about 300 patients annually. Now the unit, one of three in the state, is able to treat as many as 350.
The renovations, located on the third floor of the hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, were funded by a $500,000 donation from Florida Power & Light.