February 02, 2023
Former burn patients with remarkable stories of recovery reunited with their specialized care teams to mark the 10-year anniversary of The Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center. Research Medical Center is part of HCA Midwest Health, Kansas City’s largest healthcare provider.
“This reunion validates inspiring efforts made in delivering compassionate, high-quality burn care to patients during a critical time in their lives,” says Research Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Julie Filbeck, MSN, RN. “The opportunity to see courageous, determined patients like Wanda Morrow recover from life-threatening injuries and now thriving is a reminder of why we come together, just like a family, to care for, support and celebrate.”
“We strive to not just save the lives of our burn patients, but also support them in the days and years after their injuries,” says Megan Garcia, MD, board-certified surgeon, The Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center. “The Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center provides world-class burn care and programs providing the skills, confidence and resources patients need to better navigate their roads to recovery. By sharing their personal stories, including how care impacted their recovery and allowed them to return to the lives they love, these patients become powerful examples of the importance of caring like family. It is an important moment, reinforcing our commitment to the care and improvement of human life, above all else.”
In November 2021, a broken nose turned into a fight for life for Morrow, a wife and mother from St. Joseph, Mo. To cope with the pain and side effects of the injury she sustained after experiencing a fall while on vacation, Morrow was prescribed a medication decrease the level of pain. Shortly after, when she was back home, her recovery took a drastic turn for the worse.
“I wasn’t feeling well, almost as if I was developing a terrible rash. I remember sitting on the couch and my husband was going to work and said if I didn’t feel better by the time he got home, he’d take me to the doctor,” Morrow recalls. “When he got home hours later, I hadn’t moved from the couch. I was physically stuck to the couch.” When her husband helped her up, Wanda says that the skin on her back had literally slid off. “I couldn’t walk properly to the car as the skin and muscles on the bottoms of my feet felt like they had melted off.”
Morrow had suffered Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes that is often a result of an adverse reaction to medication that affects fewer than 20,000 people in the U.S. each year. SJS often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by the development of a rash, then the top layer of skin sheds.
After being admitted to a regional hospital in St. Joseph, Morrow was put into a medically induced coma and transferred to The Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center and into the care of Dr. Megan Garcia, MD, board-certified surgeon and burn specialist.
“While we never were able to determine the specific cause that led to Wanda’s diagnosis, SJS and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS) are serious wounds for patients,” says Dr. Garcia. “Burn centers are typically the only places that have the ability to handle such extensive wounds.”
“When I woke up, I was asked what day it was. I said November 21, which had been the same day my husband found me on the couch. I was told that it was Christmas,” Morrow says. “I missed Thanksgiving, my son’s birthday, Christmas. I just broke down crying.”
Morrow was in the hospital for three months recovering from SJS. During her stay, she went through many extensive surgeries, a variety of tests and specialized rehabilitation to recover, including physical therapy to learn to walk again. Since leaving the hospital, she attends regular therapy sessions with a psychiatrist to help with PTSD because of SJS. While recalling her struggles with SJS often brings strong emotions, recalling the compassionate care team at Research Medical Center brings Morrow joy to an otherwise difficult time.
“My care team at the Burn Center were wonderful and really pushed me to become strong again. They were all very dedicated. I feel most hospitals would not try as hard as they did,” Morrow says. “I wouldn’t be here today if it hadn’t been for them. I may have missed birthdays and holidays while I was in a coma, but because of them, I am able to be with my family for all holidays and birthdays now.”