Recovering from burn trauma

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Burn trauma isn't something that is talked about often, but it can cause psychological distress in most survivors of severe burn injuries.

Burns are a painful wound cause by thermal, electrical, chemical, or electromagnetic energy. They are classified as first, second, or third degree burns:

  • First-degree burns only affect the outer layer of skin. The burn is red, painful, dry, but doesn't cause blisters.
  • Second-degree burns involve the epidermis and part of the dermis layer of skin. The burn is red, blistered, and might be swollen and painful to the touch.
  • Third-degree burns destroy the epidermis and dermis. Unlike first or second-degree burns, third-degree can also damage bones, muscles, and tendons. The burn looks white or charred, and there is no feeling in that area because the nerve endings are destroyed.

Dr. Amy Spencer, a critical care surgeon at Spectrum Health, says that depending on the extent of the burn, a burn survivor will go through burn rehabilitation to help them get back to being functional and independent.

Burn rehabilitation centers focus on  long term recovery and healing the impact of burn trauma on the victim and the whole family.

Burn rehabilitation includes complex wound care, pain management, physical therapy, occupational therapy, cosmetic reconstruction, and skin grafting. In addition to therapy counseling is also available to deal with the common emotional responses that come with burn trauma.

Access to care and long term support can be difficult since many people have to travel hours to get to the closest burn center, that's why there's an international conference every year to inform people about how to handle burn trauma.

The Phoenix World Burn Congress is an annual international conference that has over 900 burn survivors, their families, caregivers, burn care professionals, and firefighters come together for the largest burn survivor community gathering in the world.

This year, the event will  be live streamed on Friday, October 21 in Grand Rapids for community members who aren't able to go to the conference. The event will be broadcast live at the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center.

Registration is free for this event. Click here to sign up, or call Phoenix Society of Burn Survivors at 1-800-888-2876.

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