New patient lounge helping RBWH burns patients recover faster

22 May 2024

A new patient lounge in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) Professor Stuart Pegg Adult Burns Centre is playing an important role in accelerating patient rehabilitation and recovery.

The renovation, jointly funded by the RBWH Foundation and support group Burnslife, was among recommendations of a 2022 Anglo American Burns, Skin, and Wound Care Grant, investigating enablers and barriers to participation in physical activity programs while hospitalised after a burn injury.

The grant was part of a $1-million suite of research funded by RBWH Foundation corporate donor and global miner, Anglo American.

RBWH Physiotherapist and Project leader Anita Plaza said physical activity was crucial for recovery.

"Traumatic burn injuries are devastating injuries that potentially lead to restricted joint range of motion, skin contracture, loss of muscle strength and decreased exercise capacity,” said Ms Plaza. 

“Physical activity, including mobility and structured exercise participation, is an important component of the burn rehabilitation phase to prevent these complications.”

For patients, like Central Queensland’s Frank Van Bael (pictured below with wife, Vanessa), improving recovery time is a major focus. In Frank’s case, he was keen to move around as soon as possible.

“Just getting out of bed made such a difference to how I felt,” he said.

“All the staff were wonderful to help keep me moving and helping me in general: it was not easy for me being cooped up in a hospital room or even being in the city.”

Vanessa Van Bael with husband Frank Van Bael, RBWH burns patient.

Pictured L-R: Vivian Kahl, Impact and Grants Co-ordinator; Shona Clayton, Engagement Manager; Nadeyn Barbieri, Philanthropy and Development Director; Burns Centre Director Dr Jason Brown; RBWH Physiotherapist and Project leader Anita Plaza, and RBWH  Advanced Specialist Occupational Therapist Andrea McKittrick.

Frank was working in Theodore on an old car when the motor backfired and blew burning petrol over him. He suffered burns to his face, chest, upper arms and hands, and was flown to RBWH, where he would spend five weeks as an inpatient, the first five days in a coma.

Frank’s wife Vanessa said the new lounge would make a massive difference to patients staying for long periods.

“I think it would be great as you could meet and strike up valuable conversations with other burn patient’s families, in times like that any support you can get is so valuable,” said Vanessa.

“They are long days and having a place to take a break is so beneficial.”

Other recommendations of the grant included:

  • New SOAR peer support program
  • Staff trauma training by a burns psychologist
  • Rostering of a physiotherapy assistant to help patients out of bed for breakfast
  • Outdoor walking group.

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