North Colorado Medical Center teaches medical professionals from Russia about support for burn patients | MyWindsorNow.com

North Colorado Medical Center teaches medical professionals from Russia about support for burn patients

Kelly Ragan | kragan@greeleytribune.com

Olga Feldberg walked the halls of North Colorado Medical Center's burn unit Thursday morning. It was a glimpse of what health care could be for her hospital.

Feldberg was one of six Speranksy Hospital Foundation members from Moscow, Russia, working to improve comprehensive care in the burn unit. She works as the kids' program coordinator, and she was fascinated with the way NCMC supports its burn patients.

NCMC is renowned for its Western States Burn Unit. It cares for folks who have suffered severe burns in Northern Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska.

When Feldberg learned American parents were allowed to be in the room when their children got their dressings changed, a painful process, she almost cried. American parents may take that opportunity for granted, but Russian parents covet the chance to be there for their children when they're in pain.

"That's such a big thing," Feldberg said.

Six of the seven Russian visitors are employees of a foundation for the hospital. They do social work — or try to, at least. They came to NCMC to learn about post-burn trauma support groups.

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As if surviving a traumatic burn wasn't hard enough, hospitals in Russia often don't provide the emotional support vulnerable patients need.

After patients survive severe burns, they have to learn how to live with a different face and body, said Kseniia Povgopolaia, a neurologist at Speranksy. This can be especially hard for children.

"Social support groups get the child prepared to answer those hard questions from classmates and teachers on why they look so different," Povgopolaia said.

Speransky offers some post-recovery support for children. There's a special burn camp they can go to twice per year, where there's a waterpark and a mountain to climb.

"Kids can feel like they can't do what they used to," Povgopolaia said. "When they go to the camp, they get the understanding they can do more than they thought they could."

NCMC offers support groups for children and adults. Adults meet bi-monthly on Friday nights. Topics range from body image to post traumatic stress disorder, reintegration, depression and more.

Alla Pochter, program coordinator at Speranksy, liked the idea of offering support for adults, too.

"I don't think we have support for adults at all," Pochter said.

John Sperle, a former burn patient, facilitates those support groups at NCMC. He uses his experience to relate to others and help them work through the emotional healing processes.

The group got to see the hospital's "hazard house." It's similar to a dollhouse, but it highlights common fire hazards in the home, such as clusters of cords, water and electrical interaction, smoking in recliners and more. It makes popping sounds and smokes, too. It teaches kids how to avoid common fire hazards in a safe way they understand. The hospital and the fire department split the cost about 12 years ago.

For Feldberg, that kind of prevention really stuck out. The collaboration between hospitals, firefighters, social workers and support groups is something she wants to see come to life in Moscow.

At Speransky, Pochter said, physicians tend to look down on social workers and those working to address mental health concerns. They're often viewed as lowly, doing unimportant work. But Pochter knows reintegration and support is important after a physical tragedy.

"We've been fighting so hard with everything against us," Pochter said. She couldn't help but imagine what they could accomplish if all sectors worked together.

— Kelly Ragan covers features and health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Call (970) 392-4424 or email kragan@greeleytribune.com.

By the numbers

NCMC burn unit

» Beds for burns: 10

» Serves: Average of 130 per year

» To date: 97

» Total children with severe burns in U.S. per year: 4,000

Speransky

» Beds for burns: 90

» Beds for children younger than 2 with burns: 30

» Total children with severe burns in Russia per year: About 20,000