Sensitive skin

Sensitive skin

UF resident, medical student raising awareness about epidermolysis bullosa

By Meredith Rutland

Medical students Jade Gieseke and Christina Escobar look at the photographs that Dona Reynolds, 23, brought to the epidermolysis bullosa awareness table.

Kim Merkel and Candace Glenn looked the newborn and saw a challenge.

The baby had a form of epidermolysis bullosa, an inherited condition that causes skin to be fragile and easily blister. Merkel said it was difficult to treat or even hold the baby without causing pain, and many doctors and nurses hadn’t had a large amount of experience with EB before.

Dona Reynolds, 23, has a rare skin condition known as epidermolysis bullosa./Photo by Maria Felen Barias

Merkel, a chief dermatology resident in the College of Medicine, and Glenn, a fourth-year medical student in the College of Medicine, decided to help by recognizing International Epidermolysis Bullosa Awareness Week. During the last week of October, they set up a table by the Sun Terrace with information about caring for those with the condition.

“I’m hoping this is just the start of EB (awareness) at UF,” Merkel said.

Dona Reynolds, 23, joined them for one day to share what it’s like to live with epidermolysis bullosa. Reynolds receives care in UF’s Division of Dermatology.

“It’s pretty important because not a lot of people know about it,” Reynolds said. “It’s similar to burns, but it doesn’t go away.”

It starts from birth. A baby is born and the doctors and parents spend a few unnerving moments trying to figure out why the little one seems to be rubbed raw. Then come the bandages. Even the slightest bit of friction will cause a patient’s skin to blister and break, so parents slather their children with Vaseline and bandage them with gauze.

Reynolds goes through five 13-ounce Vaseline jugs and 54 rolls of gauze a week, said her mother, Ann Reynolds. It takes 16 hours to change her bandages.

“A lot of doctors, nurses, health care people don’t even know about its existence, let alone how to help you with it,” Ann Reynolds said. “They have done a great job with what they’ve been doing (here). It’s a first that I’ve ever come across.”