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Burn Survivor’s Childhood Injury Leads Her to Help Others

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center | Posted on 10-03-2015

Thereasa Abrams, burn survivorThereasa Abrams, PhD, LCSW, understands what many of the burn patients in Memorial Medical Center’s Regional Burn Center are experiencing. When she was 6 years old, the research assistant professor with Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Institute of Plastic Surgery suffered burn injuries over 35 percent of her body.

Thereasa and her siblings were playing with matches in the backyard. Their plan was to melt some crayons in the barbecue grill. Thereasa, the youngest, was instructed to sneak into the house and secure a crayon without their mother noticing. Her 11-year-old brother built a small fire with twigs and leaves in the grill. She clutched a green crayon as her brother came out of the garage with a tin can of gasoline. That was the last thing she fully remembers.

The rest is a blur. The fireball that erupted and engulfed her. The faces of her horrified siblings. The charcoal gray skin on her right hand lifting like the layers of a burning newspaper. Most of all, she recalls the screaming, but doesn’t know if she was the one screaming or someone else.

Her mother and brother caught her and smothered the flames with a beach towel from the backyard clothesline. Her father, who owned a dry goods store, rushed home and drove her to a hospital more than 30 miles from their home in their small Michigan farming community.

Thereasa sustained first-, second- and third-degree burns over a third of her body, mostly her face, back and arms. A doctor told her parents that it was unlikely she would live through the night.

But she did survive. She remained in the hospital for the next three-and-a-half months, her parents taking turns holding vigils outside her room. They weren’t immediately allowed in because the young plastic surgeon caring for her had set up a sterile environment to decrease the risk of infection.

Over the next 12 years, Thereasa went through numerous reconstructive surgeries. She’s been told that the scars are barely visible, but they still feel all too obvious to her. It’s a reminder that the one scar that’s not visible – the emotional and psychological one – is perhaps the deepest.

Since that injury, she has dedicated her life to supporting other burn-injury survivors. She became increasingly involved with them – organizing and running support groups and speaking at conferences – and earned her doctorate in health education.

She currently leads a burn survivors’ support group, Survivors Helping Survivors, which meets on the third Thursday of each month in the Baylis Medical Building. The group is open to anyone who has been affected by burn injuries, including friends and families. For more information, call 217-545-8129.

The annual Color Blaze 5K will provide a portion of its proceeds to support Memorial Medical Center’s Regional Burn Center and its patient education and community outreach efforts. This year’s event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 18, in Southwind Park in Springfield. To register, visit

Color Blaze 5K Supports Memorial Regional Burn Center Patients

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Foundation, Memorial Medical Center | Posted on 23-04-2014

198-13-043I was a patient in the burn unit from 10/10/13 discharged on 10/23/13. I received severe steam burns in an industrial accident. I am also retired from the Peoria Fire Dept. During my time at Memorial I received what I describe as the finest medical treatment I have ever seen. The care and compassion by the staff in the burn unit went above and beyond excellent. All of the people in that unit are awesome but I feel I have to mention some who treated my medical needs but also connected on a personal level with not only me but also my family and friends. Special thanks to Kelly, Jill, Christie, Lauren, Robert, and last but certainly not least Eddie. All the staff were great, but these individuals stood out and I will always be grateful to them. Memorial Medical Center has a reason to be extremely proud of this unit.”

As a retired Peoria firefighter who served his community for 30 years, Mike Morrow has had ample experience interacting with a variety of medical professionals. So last October when he was a patient in Memorial’s Regional Burn Center, he knew great care when he received it. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Teen Holds Creative Fundraiser for Burn Center

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Foundation | Posted on 26-02-2014

Burn Donation 1Alyson Holder contemplates a career in healthcare and hopes to travel to Haiti someday as a missionary. But for now, the 14-year-old from Raymond will settle with helping patients cared for at the Regional Burn Center at Memorial Medical Center.

Thanks to a 2014 calendar she created featuring members of the Raymond-Harvel Fire Department, Alyson donated $280 to the Memorial Medical Center Foundation to support the Regional Burn Center. Read the rest of this entry »

Fourth of July Firework Safety

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Emergency, Expert Tips, Memorial Medical Center, Safety | Posted on 02-07-2013

Fireworks DisplayOooh. Aaaah. Ow.

One of those sounds should not belong.

As the Fourth of July approaches, so do barbecues, pool parties and, sadly, amateur firework artists. And so, as always, Memorial Medical Center is preparing for the annual visits from those who’ve declared their independence from firework safety.

 “In the Burn Center, we typically see between one and five firework-related injuries around this time of year, varying in severity,” says Doug Gregory, RN, nurse manager of Memorial’s Regional Burn Center. “But, every year, ten thousand people are injured nationally.” Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial’s Annual Burn Run Benefits Patients, Community

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Events | Posted on 03-07-2012

Burn Survivor, Austin Bennett races in the annual Burn Center 5K Run/Walk

The 222 participants of the sixth annual Regional Burn Center 5K Run/Walk helped raise approximately $1,500, which will help fund the center’s education and outreach programs.

Each year, the Regional Burn Center’s staff presents a wide range of educational programs for professionals, first-line responders, community hospital emergency rooms and nursing students. The staff also presents programs for the community on burn prevention. The program is custom fit to meet the community’s needs. Burney the Bear, the unit’s mascot, is frequently incorporated into the course content with his message on how to prevent fires and what to do should your clothing catch on fire.

Former Burn Center patient Austin Bennett, 12, of Janesville, ran the 5K, held June 23 at Springfield’s Washington Park, with his uncle, Travis Bennett.

“I just wanted to run for the hospital,” Austin said. “It’s really cool up there … and I met a lot of cool nurses.”

Austin’s left leg was severely burned after a cup of gas spontaneously ignited in November. After three inpatient stays and a handful of outpatient visits and procedures, he is back to living an active, pre-teen lifestyle.

Meet Austin in this short video that recaps this year’s Burn Run.


To view photos from the Burn Run, visit or Memorial’s Facebook page at

For information on the Regional Burn Center’s educational classes, please call (217) 788-3325.

6 Ways to Avoid Injury on July 4

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Emergency Department, Expert Tips, Safety, Summer | Posted on 27-06-2012

Glowing sparklers, massive booms from afar, and collective “oohs” and “ahhs” are familiar sights and sounds to most Americans. Yes, the Fourth of July will soon be upon us. And once again, Memorial Medical Center is preparing for an influx of firework-induced, avoidable injuries and burns.

“We typically see a spike in burns and firework-related injuries during this time of year,” says Doug Gregory, RN, nurse manager of Memorial’s Regional Burn Center.

Sara Plunk, RN, nurse manager, MMC Emergency Department, says, “Our goal this year is to keep everyone harm-free and inform the public of safe ways to enjoy fireworks this season.”

Fireworks should be handled delicately and cautiously. They have the potential to cause serious harm, even death, if not handled properly. Read the rest of this entry »

How a Boy and Fishing Solidified a Nursing Career

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Memorial Medical Center, Nursing | Posted on 22-06-2012

Doug Gregory, RN, Nurse Manager, Regional Burn Center

Nursing is more than a profession. It’s a calling. A desire to help, care and serve those in a time of need. 

Each day, nurses make a difference in the lives of their patients. But most will tell you that sometimes, it’s the patient who leaves a lasting impact.

Doug Gregory, RN, nurse manager for Memorial’s Regional Burn Center, has been a nurse for eight years. Below, he recalls one of his first patients, whose personal story validated his career choice:

“When I was working at a children’s hospital in St. Louis, I met a 12-year-old boy named Kenny.  He had a congenital defect with his liver and it caused a big, protruding belly.

He had been on a transplant list, on which he was waiting for a very long time. So we got to know Kenny very well. The thing that stands out the most is how throughout all his hospitalizations, he just wanted to be a teenage boy and do teenage boy things.  Read the rest of this entry »

Burn Center Gives Young Patient the Royal Treatment

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center, Events, Memorial Medical Center | Posted on 07-06-2012

Austin and one of his Burn Center nurses, Tammy Berry, RN

The day before Thanksgiving in 2011, 11-year-old Austin Bennett of Janesville was playing with a friend when the two came across a can of gas in the friend’s garage. The boys poured the gas into a cup, but before they could do much else with it, the friend’s dad intervened.

How that cup of gasoline spontaneously ignited is anyone’s guess – but that’s what happened next. As the friend dropped the burning cup, the contents were thrown onto Austin’s left pant leg, engulfing it in flames. Austin dropped and rolled, but the flame wouldn’t go out until the friend’s father ripped Austin’s pants off of him. That act likely saved his life.

Burned from his ankle to his knee with third- and fourth-degree burns, Austin’s local hospital in Mattoon determined he needed to be cared for by a Burn Center. He was sent by ambulance to Memorial’s Regional Burn Center, where he immediately underwent skin graft surgery, in which doctors removed healthy skin from the undamaged part of his upper left leg to help heal the damaged part of his lower leg. When a burn reaches third- and fourth-degrees, the skin cells are too damaged to regenerate. Read the rest of this entry »

Childhood Tragedy Becomes Source of Advocacy for Burn Center Supporter

Posted by | Posted in Burn Center | Posted on 18-05-2011

Paul Wappel, assistant vice president of Public Relations and Community Relations for Horace Mann, stopped by Memorial’s Regional Burn Center recently to visit with nurse manager Rosie Mottar, RN, BSN. Wappel has been a strong advocate for the Burn Center for many years. Photograph by Chad Jeffers.

In the summer of 1978, Paul Wappel was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then 15, Wappel was working at a local pool in Belleville, just east of St. Louis, and was responsible for cutting the grass. When he ran out of gas, he headed to a storage shed for more. There, he noticed a puddle on the floor and smelled gasoline.

“The next thing I know, the room is in flames,” he recalled. Read the rest of this entry »