A top Adelaide surgeon is in Greece to help burns victims while also promoting the use of a product he developed that can improve their recovery.
Royal Adelaide Hospital Adult Burns Service medical director John Greenwood was due to start assisting with surgery at the KAT Hospital in Athens on Sunday.
Dr Greenwood was South Australia’s 2016 Australian of the Year.
He developed the synthetic skin product NovoSorb BTM with a company called PolyNovo after the 2002 Bali bombings.
Greece has been devastated by wildfires, with at least 87 people killed and many others badly burnt.
Dr Greenwood left for Athens last week with 25 sheets of NovoSorb.
PolyNovo chief executive Paul Brennan said Dr Greenwood was an “extraordinary person” who was keen to help however he could.
“He’s rare in any doctor that you’ll ever meet in that he has a profound understanding of science, biology and technology,” Mr Brennan said.
“He plays the classical guitar – he’s got a very broad range of interests; he’s a fascinating man.”
NovoSorb is not approved for use in Greece so it can only be used if special exemptions are granted.
Mr Brennan said it was better than skin grafts because of less risk of infection, it was easier to use and created softer and less-scarred skin after surgery.
“The reason we’ve done this is from a humanitarian point of view,” Mr Brennan said.
This product was invented because of the disaster of the Bali bombings.
“Australia had 200 people badly burnt during that episode and here’s Greece with a major burn incident and if we can help in any way that’s a good thing.”
Greek fire tragedy hitting home among Adelaide community
The South Australian Greek community is rallying together in an attempt to raise funds and provide support fire victims from afar.
Greek Orthodox Community of SA president Bill Gonis is expecting about 300 people to attend a meeting tonight at the Adelaide Olympic Hall to formally kick off fundraising.
They are looking at holding events including film nights, quiz nights and dinner dances, as well as collecting donations during church services.
“They’re concerned not just for the people who have lost everything but the death toll and the way the fire started,” Mr Gonis said.
“We want to make sure the money goes to the areas where it’s need the most over in Attica, Greece.
“Everyone’s trying to do their bit to help people overseas … just overwhelming support from the general public,”
Community member Theo Panagopoulos said a friend contacted him saying she was in the fires with her daughter.
“If she had stayed an extra 10 minutes, she was dreading to imagine what would have happened to her family so that really freaked me out and being so far away from Greece I was actually in tears, I was reading all of these posts and I was crying,” Mr Panagopoulos said.
“I think the whole of Greece is still numb from this whole tragedy.
“Everyone’s in mourning, it’s been a horrific summer for Greece, especially for the people who lived throughout the nightmare and for Greeks in general it’s been really, really bad.”
Martha Kavuki will donate all proceeds from her Greek-style aerobics class tonight to the Hellenic Red Cross along with dozens of other OPA-cize instructors around the world.
“We have to support our motherland, that’s all there is to it,” Ms Kavuki said.
“Greece is going through a hard time.”