By Jennifer Heflin, The Rolla Daily News
Living in rural Missouri, it could be seen as unusual to hear of a local doctor treating the victim of a tiger attack, especially when the care was provided right here in Rolla. Jacob Barr, 26 was at an animal sanctuary in Warren County while he was with a friend who worked at the sanctuary. While cleaning the tiger cage, the 800 pound tiger jumped a fence standing between 8 and 10 feet tall and attacked Barr. The cat held Barr on the ground for approximately 30 minutes while he mauled the lower portion of his leg.
Dr. Don James first heard about the incident when Barr’s father, a patient of Dr. James, asked if James would take his son on as a patient. “He told me they were really having a hard time getting the wound to close and heal,” said James.
“He was being cared for at a hospital in St. Louis and they originally had done a BKA (below knee amputation) to try and salvage as much as possible.” Because of the nature of the wound and injury, there was not enough skin to create a skin flap to close the wound neatly, according to James. Barr began rehab and infection began to set in.
Just over a month after the incident, Barr was transferred to Phelps County Regional Medical Center in Rolla where James is on staff, specializing in Internal Medicine. “September 11, 2008, he came into my care,” said James. “One of my nurses, Peggy, and I began researching the best way to treat the infection and get the wound to heal. She was instrumental.”
The team contacted KCI Kinetic Concepts who provided a wound vac, free of charge, for the team to use. According to James, a wound vac is a vacuum especially for wound care. It suctions the wound, which elongates the cells, which increases the number of cells within the wound. This promotes tissue growth in the wound base. As the tissue grows, circulation improves which in turn manages the bacteria.
“So many medical companies worked with us and we were able to get antibiotics donated,” said James. “The treatment he underwent would have cost approximately $1,200 per week, if he had to pay for it himself.”
Thankfully, the treatment worked and the wound was closed within two weeks of using the wound vac, according to James. Although Barr lost the majority of his leg at age 26, he is adapting. He has prosthesis and is working to overcome the post traumatic stress of the incident.
Something good has come out of this terrible event. Barr’s story has been told, by he and James, on the Discovery Channel. Barr and James both were flown to Hollywood to film their part of the show. “He might not have had the chance to fly, much less go to Hollywood on an actual film set if Discovery hadn’t picked up his story,” said James. “And I was happy to help out and tell my part of the story. But, the real thrill was that Jacob got to do it!”