Burn patients have powerful stories to share. Some have endured painful surgeries, dressing changes and therapies to heal their wounds. They’ve overcome obstacles that affected them mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychosocially. Only their scars remain as reminders of what they went through.
Akron Children’s Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute is changing that narrative through a burn survivor program that recognizes the person’s journey, resiliency and courage.
“This program is a way for us to recognize our burn patients as the heroes they are,” said burn surgeon Anjay Khandelwal, MD, director of the Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute at Akron Children’s. “What they go through often feels like a marathon. It’s a race that involves their quality of life and achieving the best outcomes, while also being thrust into a new normal full of new information and stressors.”
A symbol of hope, life and better things to come
When Dr. Khandelwal joined Akron Children’s in 2020, one of his goals was to establish a formal program that recognized burn patients’ personal heroism. He soon found an ally in Akron Children’s donor Janet Tussing, who believes that burn patients should be seen as survivors, not victims. With her enthusiasm and financial gift, the burn survivor recognition program ramped up.
The Burn Center team wanted to create something that inpatient and outpatient burn survivors would find inspiring as they transitioned from treatment and returned to life with their burn injuries. They decided to work with Leandra Drumm, an Akron, Ohio-based artist who comes from a family of well-known artists and sculptors.
Drumm talked to burn patients before creating a design to represent the qualities of a burn survivor, a phoenix. In Greek mythology, the phoenix, a mythical bird, rises from the ashes of its previous life and is a symbol of hope, of life and of better things to come. The phoenix was imprinted on one side of an aluminum medallion with Akron Children’s logo printed on the back.
Since children and adults from northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia receive care at the Burn Center, the medallion is something all age groups appreciate.
Marking the end of inpatient care
Burn victims in the inpatient unit need specialized care for longer periods of time. The Burn Center wanted a more significant way to mark the end of treatment for those patients.
Becky Mundy, a nurse and burn education coordinator, turned to the Aluminum Cans for Burned Children (ACBC) program for help. ACBC raises money to fund support programs and services for the survivors once they leave the hospital.
“We were able to get a bell mounted on a plaque that burn survivors ring during their send-off ceremony from the Burn Center,” said Becky, adding that ACBC donated the bell to Children’s.
When burn survivors are discharged, they ring the bell and a member of the Burn Center team places the medallion around their neck. They then receive cheers and a clap-out by Burn Center clinicians and staff. Additionally, they receive an Akron Children’s tote with the same imprint as the medallion.
“The burn survivor recognition program is a positive reminder of what that person’s journey entailed,” Dr. Khandelwal said. “When they ring the bell and receive the medal, some of them break out in tears. The ceremony carries great meaning for patients, family members and the staff and is powerful way for our staff and the patient to thank each other.”