Feb 01, 2013
by Silvia Pendleton, Director of Marketing & Membership
This headline hardly tells the story of the effort that goes into raising that much money and it certainly doesn’t tell the story of what the money means to the patients. TSSA has embraced the idea of supporting a charitable cause or organization for many years, and since 2001, the charitable partner has been the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston. This particular hospital treats children suffering from burns regardless of their family’s ability to pay for the treatment. They accept patients from all over the world and create miracles within their walls, thanks in great part to the donations from individuals and organizations.
Since first joining the TSSA staff in 2008, I’ve had the privilege of working with the fundraising committee and have become attached to the cause. But it wasn’t until I toured the hospital for the first time and saw first-hand what they’re able to do, that I truly understood how much our efforts matter.
A group representing TSSA traveled to Galveston on January 28, 2013 to make a ceremonial presentation to the hospital’s Board of Governors. The presentation was ceremonial because the money collected during the 2012 convention and the Starfish Make a Difference campaign had already been forwarded before the end of the year. We were invited to make the presentation at their board’s first meeting of the year and to tour the hospital. We had several new people attend this year, and we also met the hospital’s new public relations specialist, Magen Cherry.
My first trip to the hospital was gratifying, but this year I learned so much more about the research being conducted and met several of the dedicated staff who work with the patients. We met Stephen Williamson, who works with the tissue bank. Stephen provided us with some great background on the process.
Each year, approximately 250,000 children are burned. These burns can result from fires, and/or contact with electricity, chemicals or hot liquids. No matter the source of the burn, they all need specialized treatment. Shriners Hospitals for Children – Galveston Tissue Bank processes and uses approximately 1,000 square feet of skin annually. One donor can provide 3-5 square feet of skin that can save the lives of up to 20 children depending on the severity of their burns.
Donated skin is processed, made into skin grafts, and used on burn patients as a biological wound dressing. This wound dressing acts as the patient’s own skin. Donated skin helps reduce water loss and infections, just to name a few of the benefits.
Another first for me was the compression mask area. Patients with facial burns wear a clear plastic mask that fits snugly onto their face and helps them heal with fewer scars. Thanks to a recent donation, the hospital has been able to add new equipment that revolutionized the process. The old method called for a plaster mold to be made of the patient’s face. Can you imagine trying to get a small child recovering from a traumatic experience being asked to lie still as a plaster mold is placed on his face? Imagine trying to get her to breathe through two tiny straws inserted in her nose! Even if this process was for their own good, I can’t imagine the process being easy – on anybody.
Once the mold was ready, it took weeks for a working mask to be produced and often resulted in something out of a horror movie. Now, a clear mask can be produced in half the time without the extra trauma of the old process. The new equipment allows for the patient’s face to be scanned with a simple laser device and the computer generated figure is transferred onto clear plastic in a matter of minutes. Some adjustments still need to be made after that, but the finished product is available shortly thereafter. The children even like to decorate their masks and don’t mind wearing them as much.
It’s hard to convey the family-friendly atmosphere of the hospital. Nor can words express the care that is obvious as we toured the various departments as staff interacted with the patients and their family members. Time and again we heard about their goal to integrate the children back into their community and return them to as normal a life as possible. We saw children being tutored and family members watching progress being made in physical therapy sessions.
Because of all the treatments and multiple surgeries needed, the areas for relaxation are appreciated by the patients. There’s even a Safe Zone where no talk of medicine, shots or treatments is allowed. The area is well-stocked with toys and books.
Volunteers help the children with art projects displayed proudly along the halls. These projects provide needed distractions, but also help the children regain dexterity.
Patients and their families are moved to off-campus housing as soon as possible – again, to give them some semblance of normalcy and lift their spirits. They return on an out-patient basis and are driven to their appointments by a Shriner volunteer if necessary.
We wrapped up our trip with a standing ovation from the hospital’s board and a round of photos taken with the “big” check. Pictures here from left to right are: Amy Morton, America’s Storage, Waco; David Hunt (Fundraising Co-Chair), Access Self Storage, Lancaster; Doug Hunt (Fundraising Co-Chair), Access Self Storage, Lancaster; Larry Easley, Storage Management Associates, San Antonio; Gary Reynolds, Shriners Hospital for Children – Galveston Board of Governors Chairman; and Mark Skeans, Mission Road Mini Storage, San Antonio.
How can you help? Sign up your facilities to participate in this year’s Starfish campaign. We also take donations of items for the auction (large or small). The live and silent auctions, as well as the Charity Poker Tournament, will take place at the 2013 TSSA Annual Convention and Trade Show in The Woodlands on October 27 – 29. There are many ways to get involved and if you’re interested, we’ll find a job or project to fit your schedule.