After spending 3 years as a paramedic, Jamie Lucey was looking for a change of pace. In 2014 she accepted a job as a technician in the Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“I had shadowed here for a day back when I was in paramedic school and it left an impression on me how nice the people were here,” Lucey said.
Caring for both children and adults with burns can be a tough job. Paul Bevere, who works full-time as a fireman for the city of Kent and who has also been a part-time burn tech at Akron Children’s on and off since 1985, knows firsthand.
“This is not an easy job,” Bevere said. “It’s very demanding both physically and mentally, but the only way my patients are going to get better is for me to do my job.”
In their roles as the only technicians on the unit, Lucey and Bevere help out wherever needed. This can include treating inpatients and outpatients and sometimes floating to other units when census is low.
Hydrotherapy and debridement
On this particular day, Lucey checks in on Greg Workman, age 44. Workman was injured in a backyard explosion and sustained second-degree burns to his face, left arm, left hand and chest.
“I’m lucky it wasn’t worse,” Workman said. “I had a bonfire where I was burning brush and old newspapers when a metal can full of kitchen grease exploded.”
Workman thinks the grease can was accidentally placed or fell into the newspaper recycle bin, which sits next to his kitchen trash.
A squad from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Warren transported him to Akron Children’s burn center.
“I’ve never had so much attention from so many pretty women in my life,” he joked.
Workman, whose treatment includes hydrotherapy baths and wound dressings, hopes to go home in a few days.
“We use the hydrotherapy tubs to clean and debride burns,” Lucey said. “Burns are cleaned with baby shampoo because it’s gentle and doesn’t contain dyes or alcohol. Once cleaned, wounds are dressed with ointment and wrapped in Kerlix, an anti-microbial type of gauze that is fast-wicking and offers good aeration and absorbency.”
Lengths of stay on the unit vary widely based on the severity of burns, need for IV pain management or feeding tubes, and other conditions or diseases the patient has.
“The majority of our patients are adult males because men tend to work in places they can get hurt,” Bevere said. “In addition to chemical and electrical burns, we see kids who were scalded by hot bath water,as well as adults who were burned from being splattered with hot water or grease while cooking.”
Negative-pressure wound therapy
Thirteen-year-old Victoria Hidey of Minerva was admitted after she was thrown from an all-terrain vehicle that hit a tree. She broke her tibia (shinbone) and fibula (calf bone).
Her surgeon has ordered IV antibiotics and a Wound VAC (Vacuum-Assisted Closure), also known as negative-pressure wound therapy, to help clear up the infection caused by dirt, grass and gravel that became embedded in a deep wound in her lower right leg. Surgery cannot be performed to correct the break until the infection clears.
“Wound VACs provide continuous pressure allowing fluid to be drawn out and an increase in blood flow to promote healing,” said Lucey.
Hidey is in for a dressing change and the spunky teenager isn’t too happy about it.
“It really hurts,” she said about her right leg, which is held stationary by an external fixator.
“Everyone has a different pain tolerance and our doctors and nurses are good about making sure our patients get their pain meds before we start any treatments,” Lucey said.
After she preps supplies and cuts sponges to the size of Hidey’s leg wound, Lucey works on gingerly removing the old dressing and vacuum tubing so the surgeon can take a look at the wound.
“Since her wound is so deep the sponge will be placed up into the wound and then covered back up,” said Lucey.
Although she has a long road ahead of her, Hidey’s grandmother, Joyce Park, is looking forward to getting her back home after surgery.
“A family friend gave us an electric scooter which will provide Victoria with some mobility and independence during her recovery,” said Park.
Backgrounds as paramedics
As licensed paramedics Bevere and Lucey are able to check vitals and start IVs in addition to their duties of debriding wounds and changing dressings.
“Skin heals itself from the inside out so it’s important to soften up the tissue with a bath before we debride,” Bevere said.
Bevere and Lucey have a variety of tools in their arsenal to help them debride – a process where foreign material and damaged tissue are removed from a wound so healthy tissue can grow.
“Patients don’t always like me when they’re here because I make them do the things they don’t want to do,” Bevere said. “Unless you’ve been burned, you have no idea how painful it is.”
Working at Children’s has made Bevere extra vigilant at his other job.
“I make sure I am covered up when fighting fires so I don’t get burned,” he said.
Although he’s been called a lot of names, Bevere said patients almost always thank him when they leave.
“They know I’m here to try and help them get better.”