Written by Jessica Wilfore, MS-Ed, CCLS on September 03, 2020
In 2011, two-year old Selah Brown sustained a burn injury. Selah was first taken to a nearby general hospital and later transferred to Shriners Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA to receive specialized, pediatric care. Selah’s mother, Dedra, recalls googling the hospital and having a strong instinct that Shriners Children’s Hospital was where they needed and wanted to be.
During his stay, Selah received much more than just physical care for his burns - he also received essential emotional and mental support. Selah attended daily activities with other children to provide him with social outlets, self-expression and the opportunity to discuss burns in a child friendly manner. At two years old, it is vital especially when in the hospital, a child is given opportunities to show autonomy, which can be accomplished through mastering concepts through play and receiving positive feedback from adults.
Embracing the concept of family centered care, Dedra’s psychosocial needs were also a high priority for the medical team at Shriners. Dedra says the therapy services, which were available to her were a blessing and helped prepare her for future conversations with family, friends and even strangers in regard to Selah’s burns. Phoenix Society also offers various resources to equip loved ones to feel confident when having these conversations. If someone you love is a burn survivor, you are not alone.
Just like caregivers, children who endured the burn as well as their siblings also need guidance in navigating questions that will come up. It is important to help children prepare for what to expect. We suggest reviewing these “Common Questions Children Ask about Burns” resource with your child prior to his/her first social gathering post burn (school re-entry, first sports practice, church, etc.).
Going back to school can be challenging for any child, let alone a child with new scars. That is why Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors created Sara’s Steps, a book designed to help young burn survivors, their siblings, and the children of burn survivors talk confidently about their own or loved one’s burn injury.
Dedra describes their experience at Shriners Children’s Hospital as, “a Heaven on earth experience.” From the nurses, doctors, therapists, child life specialists, it was “incredible.”
"Being so young at the time of his injury, Selah needed to return frequently for follow up care, including additional surgical procedures and ongoing therapy," Lori Turgeon, Director of Therapeutic Services at Shriners, said. "Every time he visited, Selah greeted me with a big smile and stories about everything happening at home. It always amazed me how resilient he was. At such a young age he could come to our hospital with an understandable apprehension about the treatment he would receive but was able to engage with me as if I was just an old friend. These visits always made me smile, proud to watch him grow and thrive despite everything he had been through."
It was at Shriners Children’s Hospital when a physical therapist mentioned Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors to Dedra. Dedra and Selah attended Phoenix World Burn Congress (WBC) in 2019 and recalls the spirit of the conference as angelic.
“We met so many people who went through a similar thing. Everyone welcomed us with open arms. I had about 200 friend requests on Facebook after that weekend!”
Selah was able to build relationships with other burn survivors who could serve as positive role models in his life. Dedra and Selah are great examples of what Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is all about, founded on the transformative power of peer support. Selah continues to receive follow up care at Shriners Children’s Hospital. Both he and his mother are looking forward to the next Phoenix WBC.