By JAMES E. CASTO
For the State Journal
HUNTINGTON – Gary Rudolph of Point Pleasant didn't see himself in a mirror for 40 days. When he did, he says, he was shocked by what he saw.
Rudolph suffered life-threatening burns to his face, arms and upper body in an industrial accident in October. He was airlifted by helicopter to Cabell Huntington Hospital, where he was a patient in the hospital's Burn Intensive Care Unit (BICU) for 41 days – 16 of them in a medically induced coma. After extensive treatment, he was finally on the road to recovery and was discharged in December.
On July 9, Rudolph was a guest at an open house celebrating the opening of a new, expanded BICU at Cabell Huntington.
Standing with some of the nurses assigned to the unit, he was generous in his praise for them. "They have a terribly difficult job, yet they come in every day with a smile on their faces," he said. "I don't know how they do it."
Charles Shumaker, the hospital's media and community relations manager, described the new BICU as a $1.8 million investment that took nearly a year to construct.
Opened in 1981, the Cabell Huntington burn unit is the only facility of its kind in West Virginia and the Tri-State area. According to Shumaker, the closest similar units are in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Columbus. Thus, the hospital treats burn victims from much of West Virginia, southern Ohio, eastern Kentucky and even sections of Virginia just over the state line.
Cabell Huntington treats more than 350 burn cases a year. Only the most critical cases are assigned to the BICU, where the average stay is 14 days.
The hospital's BICU has been relocated from the fifth floor to the fourth as part of the overall reconstruction project being undertaken for creation of the new Hoops Children's Hospital. When completed, the project will result in a new Pediatric Unit and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, along with a new hospital entrance specifically designed for young patients and their families.
Moving the BICU, Shumaker said, enabled the hospital to increase the number of beds in the unit from four to six. At the same time, the new rooms are significantly larger than the rooms in the old unit. Overall, the size of the unit has more than doubled, he said, going from 1,800 square feet to 4,500 square feet.
Two experienced burn surgeons staff the unit, with support from a team that includes specifically trained nurses, physical and occupational therapists, dieticians, respiratory therapists, pastoral counselors and social workers.
Controlling infections is a primary concern in the treatment of burns. As a result, the BICU is secluded from other areas of the hospital. Each patient stays in a private room where he or she is provided treatment and rehabilitation assistance.
For more information about the burn unit at Cabell Huntington, call (304) 526-2390 or visit www.cabellhuntington.org/services/bicu.