On Jan. 25, Carol Hayde took a boiling pot of spaghetti noodles off of the stove in her Chattanooga home.
As she moved toward the sink to strain them she slipped, accidentally dumping the boiling water all over herself.
She suffered third-degree burns on more than 26 percent of her body, said Gary Hayde, her husband of 30 years.
While Carol has been undergoing treatment at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, her husband and daughter, Tracy Guillemette, have been staying at the Jeffrey Vaden Chavis House at the Shirley Badke Retreat, a 40-bed guest house run by the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation.
Guillemette and Hayde have been at the house for about a month. Though Carol’s burns are healing well, the injury has complicated her pre-existing COPD and a bleeding disorder.
Last week, she was on life support while doctors tried to remove fluid from her lungs, Guillemette said. More family members were expected to arrive a few days later.
This year marks 25 years that the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation has provided for families such as the Haydes so they can be with their healing loved ones.
It is the realization of a dream of surgeon Dr. Joseph M. Still, who founded the burn center and was known for his innovation and compassion.
“Dr. Still would see families coming and going and sometimes they would arrive with not much more than the clothes on their backs,” said Jo Maypole, the president and CEO of the burn foundation.
“He recognized the role that the family plays in helping that patient heal. He wanted those families to be able to be nearby, but he knew that it would be a tremendous burden for families who come from all over the southeast.”
At the Chavis House, the foundation provides families a free place to stay, and area churches provide daily meals.
When a patient is ready to leave the burn center, the foundation offers patients assistance with transportation home, medicine or anti-scarring garments.
On average, the house stays about half full and serves about 1,000 guests each year, Maypole said.
Last week, Gary said it would have been almost impossible for him to stay with his wife for the past month if it hadn’t been for the foundation and the Chavis House.
He estimated that it would have cost him $200 a day to pay for a hotel room and food.
“I would have had to intermesh work with time here. Financially it would have been devastating,” he said.
Guillemette said she would have been here regardless, but she would have been sleeping in the waiting room without a plan.
She left two grown children at home in Rumford, Maine – one with autism and a bleeding disorder – and rode a bus for three days to get to her mother’s bedside.
Financially, the extended stay would have been a tremendous burden on her without the foundation. The bus ticket was even a stretch – her aunt bought it for her.
When she arrived, she was thankful that the Chavis House had a room available for her.
She said she found more there than just a comfortable bed.
“(They tend) not just your physical needs but your emotional needs. The staff really cares,” she said. “They’re always asking what you need, always asking how you’re doing, if you’re okay.”
The Chavis House will be refurbished this year, thanks to $130,000 raised last year for that purpose. Each room will get a fresh coat of paint, new bedspreads and new curtains.
Maypole said after 11 years and thousands of guests, the place needed a little sprucing up.
“Right now it looks sort of like a very nice Salvation Army room. Once we get through it’s going to look like a room you would have in your own home,” Maypole said.
The burn foundation’s 25-year anniversary celebration kicked off this week with a screening of Trial By Fire: Lives Reforged, which was scheduled at Georgia Regents University’s Maxwell Theatre.
The documentary tells the stories of seven people ranging in age from 13 to 31 who suffered burn injuries, at least one of whom was treated at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center.
Other anniversary activities include a couple of fundraisers in the spring and a block party later in the year honoring donors and volunteers, Maypole said.