2012 Plane Crash Victim Thanks Burn Center for Lifesaving Care as Volunteer Firefighters Honor Staff
Annual event acknowledges Burn Center staff’s devotion to caring for burn patients
STONY BROOK, NY, July 3, 2013 – Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters honored the staff of the Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) Burn Center for their devotion, skill and compassionate care of burn patients at the annual Burn Center Recognition Day on May 19.
Keynote speaker at the awards was Erik Unjhem, of Goshen, NY. Unjhem, a former patient of the Burn Unit, miraculously survived a small plane crash last August in Shirley, which killed the pilot and Unjhem’s wife, Jane. Unjhem, who suffered from burns covering 60 percent of his body, spoke of his time at the Burn Center, including details of his recovery, and the care he received. A determined survivor, Unjhem talked about how the staff of the Burn Center inspired him, thoroughly explaining what he could expect and encouraging him to recover. Now, less than a year later, Unjhem is back at work.
The Burn Nurse of the Year award was presented to Eileen Brown, RN, a dedicated nurse with over 20 years of experience, who has worked at the Burn Center for more than a decade. “Eileen demonstrates extraordinary compassion and care, with a special ability to listen to patients and families,” said Henry MacLellan, RN, Assistant Director of Nursing at the Burn Center. “She is expert at putting them at ease, relieving their anxiety, and preparing them for the future with information and education.”
Erica Holland, Clinical Assistant, who has been with the Burn Center for more than 30 years, was named Nursing Assistant of the Year. “Erica’s gift is being able to anticipate patients’ and families’ needs, often before they even verbalize them,” MacLellan said. “It’s not just part of her job; it’s part of her personality.”
Roy Burnham, LCSW, DCSW, received Care Provider of the Year. The award is given in honor of Guy Cassera, a Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant at the Burn Center who passed away five years ago. “Like Guy, Roy meets with the families and does counseling,” MacLellan said. “He not only makes sure they receive excellent care, he also follows up to help ensure the family is overcoming the many emotional hurdles associated with burns.”
In addition to working at the Burn Center, Burnham serves on the Red Cross Mental Health Disaster Committee, which assists people during crises in disaster zones. He is a Masters prepared social worker and a Doctoral candidate in social work.
James Mahoney of Northport, one of the founders of the Burn Fund and a member of the Northport Fire Department for more than 40 years, received the Robert Lyons Award, which is given to community members in recognition of their selfless contribution to the Burn Center. “For many years Jim has consistently gone above and beyond to support the Burn Fund and the community,” said John Lessa, President of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters. “We were honored to give him this award – because he truly deserves it.”
Marcia Simon, PhD, Director of the Living Skin Bank, spoke about short- and long-term burn therapies, and Adam Singer, MD, Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Emergency Medicine, addressed basic science burn research. Steven Sandoval, MD, Medical Director of the Burn Center, discussed current burn research.
In addition, numerous organizations and individuals were acknowledged for their ongoing support and contributions to the Burn Center. New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) thanked the volunteer firefighters and the Burn Center staff for their commitment to caring for burn patients throughout Suffolk County.
The Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters, a key benefactor of the Burn Center, sponsored the event. These firefighters work throughout the year raising money that enables the Burn Center to provide burn garments for patients who can’t afford them, purchase important equipment, have nurses hold educational burn prevention seminars in the community, and even supply DVDs for patients to enjoy.
“Burn Center Recognition Day is really a good day – a day when Stony Brook and the volunteer fire department and the community can shine,” Lessa said. “It’s an opportunity to be among people who are truly special.”
As the only designated burn care facility for the more than 1.5 million residents of Suffolk County, the SBUH Burn Center coordinates burn services throughout the county, and conducts training and research in burn care. The Burn Center also serves as a resource to neighboring community-based hospitals. Patients of all ages – from infants through geriatrics – are treated at the Burn Center.
A new Burn Center, scheduled to be completed in January 2014, will include light, spacious private rooms. In keeping with the hospital’s patient- and family-centered care philosophy, the rooms will be able to accommodate overnight visitors who wish to stay with their loved ones.
PHOTO CAPTION: Henry MacLellan, RN, Assistant Director of Nursing for the Burn Center and Surgical Critical Care at Stony Brook University Hospital, left, and Steven Sandoval, MD, Medical Director of the Burn Center, right, stand with honorees from the 2013 Burn Center Recognition Day hosted by the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters: Erica Holland, Clinical Assistant; Roy Burnham, LCSW, DCSW; and Eileen Brown, RN.