CHI partners in saving lives
Article Date: Jun 5, 2013

Saint Elizabeth Regional Burn and Wound Center
Saint Elizabeth Regional Burn and Wound Center
Her father was in critical condition in a CUMC trauma bay. Her mother was 54 miles away at the Saint Elizabeth Regional Burn and Wound Center with burns over 35 percent of her body. Sue Jensen still looks overwhelmed when she remembers the horrors of that day.

Douglas County prosecutors say a 30-year-old neighbor broke into the couple's Florence home, set it on fire and brutally attacked the older couple. Bob Vasholz—Sue's father--died that afternoon from his injuries. Betty Vasholz was released after seven days in the burn center and is slowly recovering.

"She's surprised a lot of people with how well she's healed up, Sue said. She's got a very strong willpower. She's ‘willpowering' herself to get better.

Sue witnessed firsthand how closely the Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center trauma team works with the Saint Elizabeth Regional Burn and Wound Center. In 2012, almost a dozen trauma patients were transferred to the Lincoln burn center after they were stabilized in CUMC trauma bays.

In the cooperative arrangement, the attending physician decides to transfer the patient after he sees how stable he or she is and how severe the burns are. CUMC Chief Surgery Resident Joe Wolpert, M.D., said the trauma center works exclusively with the Saint Elizabeth Burn Center. "We have a good working relationship with them, said Wolpert, who also is chief of the trauma service. "We notify the resident we have down there and he works with the attending physician there.

Both CUMC and the Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center are Catholic Health Initiative (CHI) hospitals.

Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center has the distinction of having the only burn center in the state verified through the American Burn Association and the American College of Surgeons—and one of only 63 in the country to receive the recognition. The 16-bed center treats about 500 patients a year from the six-state area of Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming. About two-thirds have been injured in fires, like Betty Vasholz who was transferred from CUMC. Because of the life-or-death nature of their injuries, many are rushed in by medical helicopter.

Burn Co-Medical Director David Voigt, M.D., has treated thousands of patients in his 27 years at Saint Elizabeth. He came from the Army Burn Center in San Antonio, Texas, which treats combat burn casualties. "I enjoy the critical care component of burn care, he said. "Every single organ in the body is affected by a large burn.

"Dr.Voigt is an amazing doctor with excellent results, said Burn Education Facilitator Crystal Berner. "It's a high stress environment. We try to put ourselves in our patients' shoes. The team has seen patients with burns on up to 100 percent of their body surface. While most hospitals admit patients in terms of days, burn center patients may have to stay months, sometimes longer.

The center's registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are certified in advanced burn life support. Like trauma work, which involves comprehensive care from resuscitation to rehab, burn care is a multidisciplinary approach. In addition to the physicians and nurses, a physical therapist works with all burn patients. A psychiatrist is available to patients and family members. A dentist is part of the team to check for abscessed teeth, which can cause infection and be deadly to a burn patient. A makeup specialist from a local department store can be called in to help. Occupational therapists, nutritionists, social workers, respiratory therapists, burn technicians and pharmacists are also available, as is pastoral care.

The cooperative arrangement works well for CUMC's trauma center, said Dr. Wolpert. "It's important because we can give our burn patients the best quality of care. They are able to offer that. They're somebody we know we can count on.

Sue Jensen, the Vasholz's daughter, was grateful that both of her parents received excellent care. "It was so traumatic with my dad being there at Creighton University Medical Center and my mom being transferred to Lincoln the same day, she said. "The people surrounding me were so concerned. I'm diabetic and forgot to eat. Someone brought me a sandwich. They were all really so concerned.

Sue's mother is living with her now—she doesn't want to go back to the fire-damaged home where she lived so many years with her husband, the man she always called her "soul mate. But Sue said the special care her mom received at both CUMC and Saint Elizabeth is helping her heal. "Now she's worried about being a burden, Sue smiled. "There's no way she is. We're just so glad and so thankful to everyone who helped her.

This article originally appeared in the Alegent Creighton Health enewsletter. To subscribe, click here.


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Related Links
Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center

Creighton University Medical Center

Catholic Health Initiatives

American Burn Association

American College of Surgeons