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October 28, 2011

Burn Camps Help Burn Victims Cope With Their Scars--and Are Located in Every U.S. State

In our last post on Wednesday, October 26, we talked about the many services offered at the new Grossman Burn Center in Phoenix, Arizona. But once a burn victim is released from a burn center like Grossman, there are still many challenges to deal with for the rest of their lives. But burn survivors can gain the confidence to move forward in their lives with the help of burn camps. In fact, every state in the U.S. has a burn camp.

Here is one example: In August 2011 a 10-year-old named Elizabeth Watson attended a burn camp in Utah, and came home feeling energized and able to better handle the complications in her life. When Elizabeth was younger, she hated the burn scars that wrapped around her legs, arms, feet and part of her head, thinking that they were so ugly. But over time, Elizabeth learned that the burn scars suffered from a propane accident when she was just 5 months old do not define who she is or how she looks. They are simply, as she says, "a part of who I am."

Elizabeth attended the annual University Health Care Burn Camp at Camp Tracy in Mill Creek Canyon in Utah, along with 40 other young burn victims. They rode horses, went swimming, made music, and created arts and crafts over four days. All of this helped them build confidence that they can do whatever they want, and that their burn injury and scars won't hold them back..

"Burn survivors go through a lot of different phases in their healing. It's sometimes difficult for them to feel good about the way they look after suffering severe burns and to have positive self-esteem," said camp co-director Brad Wiggins, a clinical nurse coordinator at University Health Care Burn Center. "The camp's purpose is to facilitate interactions with other burn survivors and teach them how to move past their burn injuries."

Asked what her favorite activity was during these burn camps, 6-year-old Chloie Workman just smiled and said, "Everything." Chloie also got to talk with other people for the first time about her burn injuries, caused by an accident when she pulled a rice cooker onto herself. "I learned about other people and how they got their burns too," she said.

For kids under age 12, the paid for by the Professional Firefighters of Utah, the union that supports more than 15 municipal departments in the state. Firefighters also volunteer at the camp by becoming counselors, doing cleanup and cooking for the children. The Greater Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts also donates the use of Camp Tracy.

"In the past, firefighters have kind of lost track to what happens to [burn survivors], and what this burn camp gave us is a chance to follow up and see how well they're doing," said camp co-director Ron Fife, who also is a Salt Lake City fire division chief. "It's a great opportunity that firefighters have and something they really support."

Ten-year-old Elizabeth said she would just like to go to burn camp without having the scars. Yet she says she has accepted what happened and just wants to move forward. "I used to picture my life like it was put into a book," she said. "But then I realized that without my scars, I wouldn't know what my story was about."

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

September 22, 2011

A Burn Victim Now Helps Others Overcome Their Severe Burns

There was a terrific article written for the Associated Press this past week about burn survivors and their path to living normally again. Here is part of that article:

Three dozen hotel housekeepers are focused on 62-year-old Sharon Everett. She's helping lead sensitivity training at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati in advance of the Phoenix Society's annual World Burn Congress held each year in late September. It will be hosted by Shriners Hospital for Children - Cincinnati, and is being held in this city for the first time.

She's come to prepare the hotel staff for a conference that will draw hundreds of burn survivors from around the country, as well as family members, burn care professionals and firefighters. She also will tell her story.

On July 9, 2000 Sharon was returning home from the grocery store. Her shopping bags sat on the floorboard behind the driver's seat, and included chemical products for the family's pool.

But as she pulled into the driveway, the car's interior suddenly burst into flames. Fire officials said the blaze ignited when the pool chemicals leaked and mixed with other grocery products. Her husband George said "I thought I lost her. I thought she was gone." Doctors thought so, too, at first, saying she had almost no chance to survive. Sharon had suffered third degree burns across 60 percent of her body. Her head and face were most severely burned. Her nose, lips, eyelids, ears and hair were gone.

Sharon remembers nothing of the fire. She was placed in a drug-induced coma for five months so skin grafts could take. "Her body had to work so hard to heal," says her daughter Patty, the youngest of the Everetts' five children. The family lost track of the number of surgeries Sharon endured.

After nine months in the hospital and a rehab center, Sharon came home, and the responsibility to provide burn injury care at home fell on her family. They changed gauze dressings, massaged burn scar tissue, and put on compression garments to reduce scarring.

"We took turns breaking down," says oldest child Katie, now 40 years old, who quit her teaching job to help care for her mother. "So when one person was feeling down, somebody else was always there to pick us up. And Mom was always the perfect patient. She was never complaining."

Sharon, who had to relearn tasks like how to feed herself, was bolstered by her family. "It's kind of like I had to live up to their expectations," she says. "It was the strength in them that helped me do it."

The Everetts say they were lucky to have the support of their family, community and church. Because of the generosity of others, they didn't have to make a meal for about a year after the accident. Still, "you feel so helpless," Katie says, "like you're the only ones who've ever been through this traumatic injury."

Katie searched the Internet and found the Phoenix Society, a Grand Rapids, MI-based burn support organization. The society's 2001 World Burn Congress was in Grand Rapids. At Katie's urging, the family rented a large van and headed north, less than a year after the accident.

"I was anxious about going," Sharon says, "because I didn't know what to expect. I was also excited about going. I knew we would learn something."

They met "so many people who had been through similar injuries, which was hard to believe," Katie says. "They were surviving, and thriving, and having a good life."

Says Sharon: "It was amazing to see people and what they had accomplished, and to see them having a good time. Laughing. Dancing."

She hasn't missed a conference since. She and George and various family members have traveled to Vancouver, Sacramento, Phoenix, New York and other cities.

The Everetts say the conference is like a family reunion where people share stories. "When you hear a story, it's not only healing for the person telling it," George says, "it's also healing for those that are listening, because a lot of them have been through similar circumstances."

The burn conferences have helped Sharon meet other challenges. She's no longer uncomfortable when going out to restaurants and shops. She's no longer preoccupied with people staring at her.

She's still bothered, though, when a child sees her and is visibly upset. She doesn't like it when an inquisitive child is quieted by a parent. "I would rather people ask than wonder. Especially children. I make my answer very simple - 'I was burned, but I'm fine now.' I don't want them to worry about me."

She acknowledges sometimes feeling discouraged. Recovery, she has learned, is a lifelong process. "I have to look at this face in the mirror every day," she says. "Most days, that's fine, I can deal with it. But there are days I get down."

But she knows that nobody goes through life unscarred, whether emotionally or physically. She tells other survivors: "You're going to have a bad day. Don't let that become your way of life. You'll get past it. Your life may be changed, but it's not over. And in some ways, it's going to be better than it was before."

Eleven years after the fire, Sharon volunteers weekly at the hospital's burn clinic, where she visits patients that need someone to talk to. She also volunteers at her church and does gardening and takes takes dance lessons. And "I'm really enjoying my grandchildren," she says.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury of any type, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries, and if you have a solid legal case.

September 16, 2011

Fire Safety Education and Fundraising Helps Kids Who Suffered Severe Burns, and Prevents Future Burns

In Mountain View, CA, a year of fund-raising led recently to the moment where a check was presented to the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF), during the annual Peninsula Firefighters Burn Relay.

"This is a major support for us, besides the work of the volunteers and their coming to the Champ Camp," said Sarah Burton, director of programs for the foundation. Champ Camp is one of many residential burn camps nationwide that help kids ages five to 16 who have suffered severe burns. "It goes beyond the monetary donation," she added. "The support of the Mountain View Fire Department through money and time has been phenomenal."

Members of MVFD's Engine 2 and the MV Fire Associates gathered on August 18 to present checks totaling $13,600 to the AARBF. According to a department spokesperson, the funds are raised from the annual MVFD pancake breakfast and through individual donations.

The AARBF provides support to survivors of second degree and third degree burns, as well as their loved ones. The group started after 8-year-old Alisa Ann Ruch died in an accidental fire during a barbecue, 30 years ago. Her parents, local firefighters and medical professionals created AARBF shortly thereafter to prevent severe burn injuries by teaching Stop, Drop and Roll.

All these years later, the program has several events, such as a young adult summit, support services, and Champ Camp.

To support these efforts, each year the MVFD hosts its annual pancake breakfast where they teach fire prevention and also raise money for the foundation. Two of the volunteers with MV Fire Assocates help coordinate on-site rehabilitation services for firefighters who suffered severe burns or smoke inhalation in cases of fires that have at least two alarms. They came with a check for the burn foundation too.

"As part of the fire community, it's our way to show appreciation to the fire departments in the county," said one volunteer. "This is our way to pay back, and also through volunteerism too."

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that they can determine whether another party is legally liable for your injuries and if you have a case.

May 19, 2010

Burn Survivors Support Groups

A burn injury is one of the most painful experiences that a person can go through. Support groups can be helpful for many survivors. Meeting others who have experienced the same trauma may help survivors adjust to their new lives knowing that they are not alone. In these groups, members can discuss anything that concerns them or even just listen to others. Burn survivors during these meeting can share their burn related experiences and can provide support and encouragement to each other. They may discuss their fears of returning to society, the reactions of others to their scars, returning to work, intimate relationships, etc.

Various activities can be organized through the support group such as get together, sport events, educational conferences, charity work and others activities. Anyone can attend the support group meetings (family members, friends). Burn staff can also participate in these activities while reuniting with patients that they treated.

Burn survivor groups can visit other burn patients in the hospital giving them support and encouragement.

Burn survivors are encouraged to attend these support groups as early as they can. This will help them adjust to the different stages of recovery.

For children who survive burns, support groups are a great resource where they can share their stories and feelings, socialize with other children who were exposed to the same trauma, and understand that there is hope.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.