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How an Ohio tissue bank is helping Hawai'i fire survivors

two people in PPE work behind glass doors labeled skin processing
Community Blood Center / Community Tissue Services
Skin allografts from Community Tissue Services were distributed to Straub Hospital in Honolulu.

At least 12 burn patients with serious wounds from the devastating fires in Maui are being treated at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, and some of them may be benefiting from skin grafts from a Dayton, Ohio, tissue bank.

Community Blood Center/Community Tissue Services (CBC/CTS) distributes skin allografts around the country, including to Straub, with the most recent delivery there sent in mid-July. An allograft is a temporary cover for burn wounds made of human skin, in this case from donors who are deceased.

RELATED: Ohio tissue bank is now part of the nation's response to mass casualty burn injuries

"Our grafts are life-saving allografts," explains Sharon Smith, wound product manager with Community Tissue Services. "They're used as a temporary dressing on those patients to minimize fluid loss, maintain their body temperature, prevent infections, minimize inflammation, and help with the pain control."

At least three patients are known to have received allografts from the Dayton tissue bank, though the number could be higher. Straub's burn unit "is the only facility of its kind in Hawaii, and the only one in the North Pacific between California and Asia," according to The New York Times.

Smith tells WVXU that Community Tissue Services has been in contact with the Honolulu facility offering to send additional allografts, but as of Thursday morning, it has not requested more supplies.

At least 111 people have died since wildfires tore though Lāhainā and other parts of Maui. Some fires are still burning, but were 80% to 85% contained as of Thursday, according to Hawai'i Public Radio. The wildfires began Aug. 8 in several spots on Maui, and grew rapidly. It is the deadliest natural disaster in Hawai'i history.

RELATED: Tissue grafts can save lives. This local agency distributed 1 million of them in 2022

The tissue bank in Kettering is one of two main centers in the U.S. that produces and distributes skin allografts for burn patients. The agency distributed a record one million tissue grafts in 2022 alone.

In October 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it is partnering with CTS on an inventory of donor skin to immediately treat injuries from mass casualty emergencies involving burns. It's supported by Project BioShield funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of HHS' administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response.

CTS and a smaller, similar bank in Colorado are working with BARDA to create and maintain an inventory of skin allografts that are available in the event of a mass casualty emergency involving burns from chemicals, nuclear or radiological incidents or bombs.

You can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.