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Healing together: Burn Survivor Sunday returns with in-person support group event

After meeting virtually during the pandemic, the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at VCU Health holds an event to reunite survivors, loved ones, first responders and VCU Health care teams.

Members of the Evan-Haynes Burn Center team pose for a picture in their scrubs Team members at the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at VCU Health provide holistic care for each patient. Back row left to right: Mack Drake, M.D., Leslie Marsh, RN, Dede Larsey, PCT, Katy Davis, RN, Mackenzie Holbrook, RN, Craig Jefferson, RN, Emily Smith, RN, Michael Feldman, M.D. Front row left to right: Jinah Quitter, RN, Tiffany Lord, RN, Karen Morales US (VCU Enterprise Marketing Communications)

By Sara McCloskey

Healing takes time. Scars left from an injury may be visible to others on the outside of one’s body, but sometimes scars run deeper.

That’s one of the reasons why Burn Survivor Sunday started several decades ago at the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at VCU Health. Burn centers nationwide hold Burn Survivor Sunday events to provide patients and their families an opportunity to connect with community resources and other survivors for peer support.

"Burn Survivor Sunday gives patients and their loved ones a chance to talk about their challenges, recognize their achievements and celebrate their lives," Michael Feldman, M.D., medical director of the Evans-Haynes Burn Center.

It’s also a time for burn survivors to reunite with their burn center care teams, as well as local prehospital providers and firefighters in a relaxed, non-hospital environment.

These events were held in-person for nearly 20 years, until the COVID-19 pandemic moved them to being virtual. This year, Evans-Haynes Burn Center team members were excited to welcome their patients and their loved ones back in-person. The event was held Sunday, April 23, with support from the Old Dominion Firefighters Burn Foundation.

“When we admit a patient, we don’t just embrace the patient. We also support their closest loved ones,” said burn center program coordinator Tiffany Lord, DNP, RN, CMSRN. “During that time, the patients come to recognize hospital staff as people who they trust and assist them in their healing process.”

As the only Level I Comprehensive Adult and Pediatric Burn Center in Virginia, the Evans-Haynes Burn Center provides comprehensive care that not only treats physical wounds, but also the emotional impacts of severe burn injuries.

During Burn Survivor Sunday, attendees had the opportunity to meet in small groups with a chaplain, trauma psychologist and social worker. There were also occupational and physical therapists on hand to help attendees learn more about exercise and movement programs.

Having the opportunity to meet others with similar injuries can validate burn survivors’ feelings and experiences, Lord says, often bringing up tears and even laughter.

“Some share how their injury has changed their lives and how they are coping,” Lord said. “Many offer thanks to burn center team members, family and other support systems.”

Burn survivors can also participate in the Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (S.O.A.R.) program, with support groups that meet regularly and individual support either while in the hospital or after being discharged.

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