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Ohio Company Making Masks for Burn Victims Reaches Milestone
MORROW -- You've probably never heard of "Smith Prototypes" in Morrow, but they make masks for burn victims and on Wednesday they turned out their 1,000th mask.
Their amazing creations help burn survivors heal. Reporter Rich Jaffe from our sister station, WKRC, found that as important as the mask itself is the sense of humanity the Smith team brings to healing.
Behind a nondescript door, Dick Smith and the team at Smith Prototypes work magic ... the important kind. For 16 years the tiny six-person team at Smith has been giving faces back to burn victims by crafting masks that help their scar tissue heal.
"And so what it does, it's pushing the fluids out of the scar. It's reducing the ability of blood to bring nutrients to the scar so the scar starts to recede. The collagen fibers start to align themselves in a parallel way so it flattens the scar so as it matures it matures flat rather than raised and thick and hard," said company president Jennifer Whitestone.
A firefighter for 47 years, originally Dick Smith used a computerized milling machine to create things like GI Joe and Star Wars figures for toy companies. While he still makes lots of those, today he turned out his 1,000th burn mask.
"Certainly this is far beyond ... the thing in the toy industry you build a toy ... aw it's just a damn toy ... don't make any difference ... yeah, this is much more satisfying," Dick Smith says.
Jennifer Whitestone uses a hand scanner on the patients face, which is then programmed into the computer. Once programmed the face is sculpted in just a few hours.
Dick Smith explains, "I'll set it up about 7 o'clock, when I get ready to go in the house, then I'll go in the house. About 11:30, I'll come out, take the part off the machine and there you've got a face, you've got a face."
Nearly a dozen people injured in the World Trade Center terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, wore these masks, so did an Olympic torch bearer and many more.
"And the one thing about it, nobody goes without a face, nobody," Dick points out. "If we get paid for it that's fine, if we don't that's fine also."
"It's a lot of faces and I've seen every single one because I've scanned or received the scans from every single patient so I have a lot of faces in my head and certainly a lot of stories that go behind those faces and I think that our team has definitely made a difference," said Whitestone.
Smith Prototypes is electronically connected to all the major burn centers around the country. In an emergency they can actually knock out a burn mask in as little as one day, but generally the process takes about a week from start to finish.
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