Commentary

Stephanie Anderson: Healin’ with a feelin’

August 27, 2013 

Stephanie Anderson

STEPHANIE ANDERSON

When my husband Kim was seriously burned in a fire at our Chapel Hill home in 2010, the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center became our refuge for the four months of Kim’s inpatient treatment.

Though the odds for survival were against him when he arrived at UNC Hospitals that night, no one ever discussed defeat or said there was no hope.

Getting to know the staff – nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurse’s aides, doctors, residents, interns – it became clear that it took a special kind of person to work in the Burn Center with patients that are in constant pain and so severely injured. Kim’s survival was measured hour by hour, day by day, then week by week for those first two months. While he was in his coma, I was his voice. The nurses taught me how to care for Kim and his wounds, and I was allowed to participate in his bathing and a lot of his day-to-day care. I was never treated with anything less than complete respect and honesty.

I saw so many families in anguish over loved ones and every time the staff treated them as they had treated me. Many patients are not from the local area and often do not have the support of family and friends during their recovery. And again, the staff fills that role whenever possible because they know a strong support system is a major key to a patient’s survival and recovery. This special group of people, these unsung heroes, should be recognized and supported for all they do.

It also became clear that there is never enough money to support the patients as much as the staff wishes they could. Many times the occupational and physical therapy staff see patients who can’t afford the garments or creams they need to help with their recovery after they’ve been discharged. I know it pains them to see people in need.

Rehabilitation is time consuming and costly. A burn survivor’s recovery isn’t complete upon discharge from the center. It’s a long and hard road of continued outpatient therapy and a lifetime of day-to-day care.

We were lucky that we had great insurance coverage, but it was clear that this was not the case for everyone that came through the burn center. Every survivor with skin grafts has to take care of his skin, avoid sun exposure and use daily moisturizers and sun screen; most have to wear compression garments for weeks or months after discharge as their body slowly heals. All of these items can add up to quite an expense. Kim and I thought providing some of these items would make the recovery process just a little bit easier for those in need.

While Kim was still recovering, we decided we would establish a family fund to support other patients and the efforts of the personnel who had treated us with such grace and skill. In 2011 we organized an event called “Healin’ With A Feelin’; A Night Of Burnin’ Love” at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill. We had so much support throughout the year during Kim’s recovery that I was amazed at how folks continued to come together to support us and the burn center through their involvement with this event.

Not having done anything like this before, we never would have had the success we did without so many knowledgeable people stepping up to help us. The bands donated their time and talents. Frank Heath, owner of the Cat’s Cradle, donated the venue. We raised money through ticket sales, direct donations, and sales through a silent auction. We repeated the event in 2012. Over $20,000 has been raised, and the sun-protective items have already been disbursed to dozens of deserving patients including the kids that participate in the Burn Center-sponsored Camp Celebrate each spring.

This Saturday night Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, “Healin’ With A Feelin” will take place for the third year (go to jayceeburncenterevent.com or call Kim at 919-621-7260 for more information). Featuring the wonderful music of Rebecca and The Hi-Tones, The BilliTones, The Willie Painter Band, and The South Wing Band, our goal is to sustain the Anderson Family Fund over the coming years and to be able to continue to provide what we can for those survivors in need. We’ll continue to think of creative ways to raise funds and awareness of all the fabulous work that the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center does and keep the fund going just as long as we can.

Please join the Anderson Family, our friends and volunteers, and the great N.C. Jaycee Burn Center staff for a night of fun and inspiration.

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