Making a Difference in the Lives of Burn Survivors

They arrive at all hours of the day and night – helicopters fly them, ambulances drive them. They come from a 15,000-square-mile area, and nearly half of them are children. They are burn patients.

And each year hundreds of them are taken to the Leon S. Peters Burn Center at Community Regional Medical Center for life-saving treatment by its specially-trained medical team.

But, running a round-the-clock facility with highly-trained staff and specialized technology is costly. Many burn centers across the nation are closing their doors because of the cost of specialized surgeons and nurses, extensive patient recovery periods and specialty equipment such as hyperbaric chambers. When budgets are tight, adding new technology can sometimes be out of reach for many burn centers.

But thanks to the support of a family with ties to Fresno, new life-saving technology is available and helping Community Regional provide a higher level of care. Over the past two years, the Dyer Family Foundation has been a significant supporter of the burn center.

The Dyer Family Foundation, funded by the late Calvin and Frances Dyer, made its first gift to Community Medical Centers in 2006, allowing the Leon S. Peters Burn Center to purchase the Wound Expert System. This software enhances patient service by including comprehensive documentation, eliminating the need for costly dictation and transcription, and supporting an entirely paperless patient record.

“The program allows us to follow the wound progression for patients who have acute and chronic wounds,” said Sandra Yovino, registered nurse and manager of the burn center and pediatrics at Community Regional. “We can see all aspects of the previous visits and determine how wounds are healing by reviewing photographs.” 

The program also allows the burn team to review patient information on a secure site from any computer on campus and provides "best practice" information for different types of wounds. “It’s a great program that provides us with more information to better serve our patients,” Yovino added.

The Dyer Family Foundation is run by a board of directors that includes the Dyers’ four daughters and son. “The Dyer Family Foundation started as a result of my parents putting aside funds for a charitable trust,” said son, Calvin Dyer. “It was their wish that a family foundation be created and run by family members to give back to our respective communities.”

Dyer’s sister, Deloris Kinghorn explained that three of the five siblings live in Fresno and when the board learned about the burn center at Community Regional, they wanted to be a part of it. “The staff is very knowledgeable, courteous and dedicated,” Kinghorn said. “They are truly invested in helping patients and are diligently looking for new ways to help in treatments.”

After making the initial gift, the Dyer Family Foundation learned the wound expert program had even more far-reaching applications than originally anticipated and were so impressed by the burn center staff and their work that they agreed to consider another gift for the burn center.

With help from the Community Medical Foundation and the burn center staff, the Dyer family identified equipment the burn center could use to help deliver better patient care. 

“We reviewed the information and wanted to do more for the burn center so we decided to assist with equipment the burn center needed,” Kinghorn said.

In October, the foundation presented another check to Community that was used to purchase a transport ventilator and a continuous renal replacement therapy machine (CRRT) for the burn center.

According to Kim Pope, registered nurse and director of critical care, burns and respiratory services, the small and portable transport ventilator can travel easily with patients who need help breathing as they are transported to another area for tests such as a CT scan or MRI.

“We only had a couple of transport ventilators, so they were used on only the most critical patients,” Pope said. “This sometimes delayed tests until a transport ventilator was available.”

The CRRT machine is a dialysis machine, but unlike hemodialysis (dialysis given over generally a four-hour period) it provides a continuous filtration that is easier for an unstable critical care patient to tolerate. Pope said the burn center currently has a limited number of CRRT machines and, occasionally, not enough to meet demand.

“We expect that piece of equipment to arrive within the next six weeks and the staff is extremely excited about this additional machine,” she said. “We are truly grateful for the generosity of the Dyer Family Foundation; they have made a significant difference in the care we are able to provide our patients.”

Meanwhile, the members of the Dyer family are delighted that their gifts are making such a difference in the lives of burn survivors.

“It was my parents’ wish that they leave the world a better place,” Kinghorn said. “We were happy to make these gifts and are so very fortunate that the Fresno area has this regional burn and trauma center.”

“We chose to give to Community because our gifts benefit the whole region,” Dyer added. “If our gift is able to help one person heal from a serious burn, or from experiencing any additional pain, then it was a worthwhile project.”


This story was reported special by Suzanne Crosina-Sahm. She can be reached at MedWatchToday@communitymedical.org.