After Samir Alniswan suffered deep burns to 60 percent of his body, he spent over six months at Regional One Health and endured more than 40 surgeries.
Thanks to his courage, will to survive and expert care he received at the Firefighters Burn Center, he was able to return home to continue his rehabilitation and recovery.
The Burn Center continues to be one of the best in the nation thanks to state-of-the-art technology and an expert, compassionate team, all of which is supported by the Regional One Health Foundation.
On the day he is discharged from Regional One Health’s Firefighters Burn Center, Samir Alniswan wears a black shirt emblazoned with the face of a lion.
It’s an image that conjures up many meanings: Power. Strength. Courage.
After suffering devastating burns, Samir needed all of those things to survive. He also needed the unique medical expertise and state-of-the-art technology that the compassionate Burn Center team have developed with support from the Regional One Health Foundation.
“If I had gone to any other hospital, I don’t think I would have made it. They’ve got amazing doctors,” Samir said. “I tell people, ‘This is the hospital to go to: don’t give up, because they’ll save you.’
They did surgery after surgery to save my leg. They went above and beyond.”
Burn specialists Ram Velamuri, MD and William Hickerson, MD, the center’s associate medical director and medical director, were among the first to treat Samir, who had injuries to his chest, abdomen, face, arms, and legs.
“He had extremely deep burns to 60 percent of his body,” Dr. Velamuri said. “The burns to his legs, especially the left leg, extended all the way to the bone.”
The soft tissue and ligament structure of Samir’s legs were destroyed, leading to significant loss of mobility. Four fingers on his right hand were amputated, and deep burns limited movement in his wrists. Over six months, Samir had more than 40 surgeries along with kidney dialysis, blood thinners, a ventilator, antibiotics, and treatment for abnormal heart rhythm.
But after all that, Samir was able to not only survive but to also return to his own home.
His success is due to an interdisciplinary approach at Regional One Health that includes doctors and nurses in intensive care and burn, rehab therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, and social workers.
They come together to treat the most severely burned patients from Tennessee, Arkansas, southern Missouri, Mississippi and Kentucky at the Firefighters Burn Center, the only facility of its kind in a 400-mile radius verified by the American Burn Association.
“We use techniques that are different and unique, and we give the patient hope,” Dr. Velamuri said. “We focus not only on life but function. It’s not just about the care we provide while they’re in the hospital, it’s about seeing them leave functioning as close to possible as they were before they were injured.”
For Samir’s wife Amy, that approach was a blessing, starting from day one. “Dr. Hickerson gave me a hug and told me, ‘I’ll save your husband because you’re like my daughter. I promise you, just give me time.’ And he did. It’s an amazing hospital.”
It continued with Samir’s physical therapy, as Sandra Fletchall, OTR/L, CHT, MPA, FAOTA, burn rehabilitation manager, helped rebuild his strength and give him new ways to get dressed, brush his teeth, eat, get in and out of rooms and cars.
“People think, ‘I can’t do it the way I used to, so I can’t do it at all,’” Fletchall said. “But it doesn’t mean it’s the end, it just means it’s different, and we have to figure out the way to move forward and the best technique for them to do it.”
Fletchall said it’s amazing that Samir not only survived and kept his legs but, “He’s not going into a nursing home. He’s going home.”
And as that joyful occasion arrived and Samir said goodbye to a burn center team that had come to feel like family, he knew exactly what he was most excited to get home to.
He has a cat who he rescued as a kitten. Samir found the tiny animal wandering in a busy street, its life perched precariously in the hands of the drivers speeding by. He waded into the fray, scooped up the trembling animal and carried him to safety.
He’s cared for him ever since, helping him grow from a fragile kitten to thriving cat.
Samir named him Simba. In Swahili, it means Lion.