Creating special moments for patients during the holidays

January 9, 2023  //  FOUND IN: News,

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Each year, the Trauma Burn Center treats more than 1,400 patients with severe injuries.
  • Community partners often come together to help improve the experience for current and former patients.
  • This year, a teddy bear drive, toy drive and golf outing helped brighten the holidays for those treated in the Trauma Burn Center.

U-M Health’s Trauma Burn Center is considered one of the best in the country. Each year, the multidisciplinary teams within the center treat more than 1,400 pediatric and adult patients with severe traumatic injuries – most of which are life- or limb-threatening.

The center’s faculty and staff achieve incredible positive outcomes for patients and families. On top of clinical success, community partners affiliated with the center bolster these efforts by improving the experience for patients both during and after they have been in the center’s care.

“Sometimes emotional support is just as important as physical care,” said Kristy Brown Stretch, an injury prevention program and event specialist. “That’s why we’re so thankful that those in the community step up to help our patients and make the holidays a special time of year.”

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the ways patients and their families received support from the community in recent months.

Community connections

For decades, community partners have helped raise awareness and funds to help the center continue education and outreach efforts. This past holiday season, the Ann Arbor Firefighters Charities, the Dearborn Firefighters and the Detroit Axemen all continued their incredible activism and generosity.

As they prepared for the holiday season, the Ann Arbor Firefighters Charity outing was held at Lake Forest Golf Club. Over the last 27 years, the group has donated more than $150,000 raised through this golf outing. 

Funds are given to the Trauma Burn Center with a focus on programs such as trauma burn prevention, awareness programs and the Children’s Burn Camp. 

At this year’s golf outing, Pam Pucci, a retired nurse who worked in the Trauma Burn Center, partnered with Zach Kurtz, a former patient she cared for when he was a child. In order to round out their team for the event, they were joined by the Ann Arbor fire chief and his sister-in-law. This was a wonderful example of how even long after receiving care from the Trauma Burn Center, the bonds between firefighters, caregivers and patients remain intact.

Delivering cheer 

In December, the Dearborn Firefighters brought holiday cheer to children recovering from burn injuries through a toy drive. While this event is no longer being held in-person on a large scale due to COVID-19, the firefighters shopped and delivered gifts. U-M entrance and valet services assisted in setting up the Taubman Center Circle Drive so that patients and families could enjoy this special event. 

Santa went to each car to visit with the happy recipients as firefighters delivered wrapped gifts. Nursing, social work and injury prevention staff were also present to assist and visit with former patients. 

The event involved any Trauma Burn pediatric patient from the past year, with special deliveries made to those still in the hospital.

“We can’t thank you enough for including our son in the holiday event,” said the parent of one patient. “He had a wonderful time and we are truly appreciative of the care he received…Thank you so much for everything – especially the gift of making it possible for us to bring a healthy boy home with us.”  

Bear-y important gifts

The Detroit Axemen, meanwhile, are a nonprofit motorcycle club of current and retired firefighters. 

The Axemen hold an annual drive to collect comforting teddy bears and stuffed animals to give to patients, struggling siblings, family members and friends of patients while they are in the Trauma Burn Center. 

Each year, the Axemen donate more than 200 teddy bears during the holiday season. Their motto is: “No child sleeps alone on Christmas.” 

As Brown Stretch said: “I really enjoy working with the firefighters, who are big teddy bears themselves. It is wonderful to be able to share these stuffed animals with various clinics and patients who could use a snuggle. It makes their lives and their challenges just a little bit easier each day.”