‘As a parent, you never think, where would I go?’: Doctor and staff providing burn care at Baptist

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:44 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - You never know when an accident may happen. A burn center is something you hope your family never needs to know about.

But, there was a gap in access when the state’s only center closed in the fall.

As WLBT reported previously, UMMC is requesting a burn center designation and looking for resources from the state.

Baptist is in the process of doing the same.

It’s been a week since Spencer Smith’s surgery for second-degree burns on his face.

“There was an aerosol can of some sort in the fire and it blew, blew up and he was on that side of the fire,” described his mom Leighann Smith. “So it caught, you know, this side of his face and neck.”

It happened at a deer camp in the Vicksburg area where he was then taken to a hospital and airlifted to Baptist. They’re grateful to Spencer’s friend.

“Barrett just hit him with a cushion until the flames were put out and I think him acting so fast prevented him from being further burned,” noted Smith. “We would have possibly been doing skin grafting so he’s our little hero.”

Leighann Smith felt like her heart stopped a few times after getting the call.

“As a parent, you never think, where would I go? If something like this happened, that has never crossed my mind.”

But it was the primary thought for Dr. Derek Culnan when he was informed the state’s only burn center he led at Merit Health would close in October. The void was short-term because the same staff came with him to Baptist where he’s gotten admitting privileges.

“We went down in October,” said Culnan, Director of Mississippi Burn, Hand, and Reconstruction Center. “I was back up operating November 29.”

They’re waiting on details and funding to customize the currently unused space.

“The blessing that this area existed in this community, and that there’s a hospital that’s willing to build it out to care for these patients is something I’m thankful for every day,” added Culnan.

They’ve done more than 100 surgeries since November, 72 of those burn surgeries.

“Since we’ve restarted here at Baptist, which I am most proud of, I have cared for patients from Pascagoula up to DeSoto, from Meridian,” he said. “And all the way over actually into Louisiana. We have covered this state from stem to stern. And a lot of these are patients who otherwise were being told to fly out of state.”

There will be more discussions of the politics of all this and where the state placed resources in the coming days and weeks and we’ll be keeping you posted on that too.

Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.