Phillip Shelton suffered second-degree burns on 25 percent of his body, mostly his back, hands and face.
Family members said doctors are optimistic for a full recovery but the battle at present is still uphill, according to Shelton’s daughter, Shelley Austin.
The biggest concern at this time is Shelton’s lungs.
He developed pneumonia last week and doctors are treating him accordingly, allowing him to “wake up,” in intervals, from his drug-induced state.
Family members said Shelton “woke up and started talking,” but was confused.
The evening the accident at Abitibi-Bowater occurred was supposed to be just a normal day, according to Austin.
Shelton was supposed to meet with the rest of his family to cheer on a grandson who was trying out for a school basketball team.
McMinn County, Bradley County and other first-responders were notified of an explosion at the plant.
Shelton, a veteran of fighting fires with the Charleston Fire Department and more recently Bradley County Fire and Rescue, and also a member of the Bowater Emergency Response Team, was attempting to control a fire which occurred in a coal bin when he was burned.
“He knew he was burned bad,” said Austin, “He radioed for paramedics and even requested a helicopter. He wouldn’t let anybody touch him due to the nature of his burns and even placed himself on the stretcher for medical treatment afterward.”
Shelton was taken to Erlanger Medical Center then transported via airplane to Augusta, Ga.’s Joseph Still Burn Center.
Family members were convinced by doctors to have Shelton transported south instead of northwest to Nashville’s Vanderbilt hospital, where Shelton’s neurologist practices.
Shelton developed Parkinson’s Disease about three years ago and undergoes treatment in Nashville.
Austin said the family contemplated the burn treatment in Nashville due to the proximity of Shelton’s neurologist being located there but doctors at Erlanger were able to sway their decision for treatment at the Augusta facility.
Austin said Shelton remains on a controlled breathing apparatus and doctors are “trying to ease sedation.”
Shelton had recently undergone rotator cuff surgery as well.
Doctors also concluded Shelton had suffered burns in his throat from the fire, but no evidence of “soot or heavy smoke-inhalation was present,” said Austin.
Shelton, 55, has been fighting fires and helping in the communities of Charleston and Calhoun since he was 18 years old, according to Austin.
“He has a long road ahead. This is only a beginning. Doctors said he will also have extensive physical therapy afterward,” said Austin.
Firefighters and friends have set up a Facebook page for information and well wishes from the community.
The address is www.facebook.com, then search for “Praying for Phillip Shelton.”
Austin said the outpouring of goodwill from the Emergency Services community, including vendors of life-saving equipment and others, has been overwhelming.
Visits from local firefighters taking the long trek to Augusta have also been noted by the Shelton family.
For well-wishers who want to send get-well cards or letters, send to: Joseph M. Still Burn Center, ICU Burn Center-Room 324, 3651 Wheeler Road, Augusta, GA 30909, in care of Phillip Shelton.