Burn Survivor Sunday Reunites Patients and Caregivers

By Rick Pietzak

Nearly 200 patients attended the 19th annual Burn Survivor Sunday at UPMC Mercy to celebrate their care and recovery and also say farewell to burn surgeon Jorge Varcelotti, M.D., who is retiring after providing 25 years of burn injury treatment and prevention.

“It’s been a great experience. This type of injury is unique and devastating for both patients and families.  It has been very satisfying to be there for the patient on one side and the family on the other,” said Dr. Varcelotti.

Burn Survivor Sunday, an annual event, brings former patients back to meet and tell their stories about the injuries they have overcome.  The celebration included a visit by a pet therapy dog, Rudy; a balloon artist; arts and crafts; face painting and a caricature artist from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. 

“Our goal in the hospital is to heal the burn wound, but that is really just the first step in healing a burned patient.  The hardest part can come after they leave the hospital - working on the emotional and psychological aspects.  It is really great to see the patients get back to their normal lives,” said Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., medical director, UPMC Mercy Burn Center.

In a surprise announcement during the celebration, the Ladies Hospital Aid Society said it had chosen UPMC Mercy Burn Center as the beneficiary of its 2013 LHAS gala.

“We are very happy to recognize such an outstanding group of physicians and caregivers. We are proud to support the lifesaving work of the burn care team,” said LHAS President Laura Penrod Kronk.

Pamela Kovak, of Shadyside, was injured in a cooking accident last December. She suffered third-degree burns and needed surgery. She says she is doing well and was excited to celebrate with other burn survivors.  “This is fantastic,” she said. “I am going to come every year.”