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The psychological challenges burn victims face

In the not-so-distant past, victims of serious burns had very poor chances of survival. Even if they survived the initial conflagration, the overwhelming infections that resulted from the horrific burns often claimed their lives.

But medicine has advanced to the point where even patients with deep, disfiguring burns may survive. The challenge has somewhat shifted then to the psychological stresses they face as they go forward with their recoveries.

Burn victims typically face three stages of recovery:

  • Resuscitative or critical
  • Acute
  • Long term rehabilitation

At each recovery phase, however, their psychological needs will differ. At the critical first phase, for instance, they are struggling just to survive another day. That can be incredibly stressful, especially since the outcome and their degree of recovery may be quite uncertain. The intense pain from debriding the burns each day can overstimulate the patients even while the monotonous environment of the burn unit can cause extreme boredom. Intubation that limits their communication abilities can also frustrate burn patients.

As severely burned patients transition into the acute phase of their recoveries, they may be overcome with anxiety and depression. They are now aware that they face years of grueling recovery and likely disfigurement. Some may begin to question whether they even want to live at all under these conditions. The psychological effect of their burns is just beginning to manifest as they grieve the loss of their former unburned skin and limbs.

If they manage to make it to the long term rehab stage, they usually will be discharged from the hospital but still require treatment therapies. They must learn how to reintegrate back into society as a burn victim. They typically face high stress levels along with anger and great sadness.

While there is nothing that can ever negate the terrible changes wrought by a disfiguring burn injury, seeking compensation from any liable parties can ease the transition through the three stages and provide a cushion for an easier life.

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