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Burn, Critical Care and Trauma

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Roger Yurt, MD

Roger W. Yurt, MD
Johnson and Johnson Distinguished Professor of Surgery
Vice Chairman, Department of Surgery
Weill Cornell Medical College
Chief, Burn, Critical Care and Trauma Surgery
Director, William Randolph Hearst Burn Center
NewYork-Presbyterian
Weill Cornell Medical Center

The Division of Burn, Critical Care and Trauma Surgery provides a vitally-needed service for the community, and offers critically-ill patients a unique expertise and compassionate care from highly-skilled surgeons who are at the top of their field.

For three decades, the nationally acclaimed William Randolph Hearst Burn Center has been setting the standard for excellence in burn care. With an average of more than 1,000 inpatients and 4,000 outpatients per year about four times the average burn unit the Burn Center is known not only for providing the highest level of medical care, but also has earned a reputation as one of the most compassionate centers in the world. Since its founding in 1976, the Burn Center has had a close and unique relationship with the New York City Fire Department and works closely with the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, which has continuously supported the development of our program, to educate the public on fire hazards and prevention. In addition we have established an extensive community outreach program.

The Burn Center team is comprised of more than 180 staff members from multiple disciplines, many of whom have decades of service to the Center. These include physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, nutritionists, psychiatrists, chaplains, aides and volunteers who are well-equipped to handle the physical and emotional challenges of caring for victims of burn injury, survivors and their loved ones.

The trauma and critical care surgeons in the Division of Burn, Critical Care and Trauma must be prepared every day to deal with a wide range of emergency situations, such as a call to the Emergency Department to evaluate a victim of a motor vehicle collision or a construction worker who has fallen from a scaffold; a call to the operating room for emergency surgery on a patient with a perforated appendix; or to manage patients or to perform a tracheostomy in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Around the clock, our team stands ready to answer any call from any part of the Hospital in which accepts patients in need of expert critical care and acute care surgery from other hospitals.

As a Level 1 Trauma Center, the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell center is the busiest in New York City, with the full range of resources necessary to care for the most severely injured and critically ill patients. Often, these patients require the expertise of our trauma and critical care surgeons who are specially trained to address multiple organ system injuries and high-risk surgical cases. In addition, our division Is ready to accept critically Ill patients who are referred to us from other hospitals.

Our first priority is to save lives. Our philosophy is to provide total care of the patient and to always be available when needed. We not only perform surgery, but we also follow our patients throughout their hospitalization and recovery, providing a seamless continuity of care. At the same time, however, we also recognize that particularly at a time of crisis, patients and their families need compassion, sensitivity to their concerns, and ongoing communication.

Roger Yurt, MD

Three months after half his body was badly burned, New York City firefighter Robert Wiedmann returned home Friday to Long Island - receiving a hero's welcome every step of the way, on March 24, 2012. His arms still wrapped in bandages, Mr. Wiedmann, 38, walked out of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center's burn unit accompanied by drums and bagpipes. Dozens of firefighters in dress uniform applauded him.

He's had 10 operations, and eight to 10 more will be needed in the near future, including painful skin grafts, said Roger Yurt, MD, Director of the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center, Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery, the Johnson and Johnson Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Chief of Critical Care and Trauma Surgery at NewYork-Presybterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, who is an internationally-recognized expert in innovative burn care. Dr. Palmer Bessey, Professor of Surgery and Associate Director of the Burn Center at NYP/Weill Cornell, also provided the complex surgical care needed to ensure Mr. Wiedman would survive his injuries, in which 54% of his body was burned while fighting a fire.

Dr Yurt said the survival chances for burn patients is assessed like this: The percentage of body burned plus the age of the patient equals the mortality rate. His initial prognosis wasn't good, but Drs. Yurt and Bessey and the entire multidisciplinary team at the Burn Center were able turn that prognosis around, and enable Mr. Wideman to be discharged on March 24th. "He has done much better than we anticipated," Yurt acknowledged.

As he rode home to Islip Terrace in a black limousine with a State Police escort, fire trucks on the Southern State Highway crossed ladders in salute atop several overpasses.

Outside the family's home, several hundred people, many of them fellow firefighters, were waiting.

People cheered as the limo pulled up, Wiedmann waving from the window, a therapeutic glove with neon-green fingertips on his injured hand. He stepped from the car with a big smile, wearing a blue department T-shirt.

"It's great to be home," the father of two - Ryan, 12, and Erin, 9 - said as he hugged one supporter after another.
"The best thing is just having him home, where we can be a family," said Wiedmann's wife, Cathy. "Just being a family again."

A 14-year veteran assigned to Rescue Company No. 2 in Brooklyn, Wiedmann was critically burned Dec. 19 when hot gases from a fire exploded as he and another firefighter searched a residential building near Prospect Park.

The other firefighter, James Gersbeck, 52, formerly of Port Jefferson Station, also was treated at the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He was released earlier, officials said.

Outside the Wiedmann home, Paul McFadden, a retired lieutenant from Rescue 2, called it a "happy day."

"He was burned very, very badly," McFadden said. "To see him come home after just a couple of months, it's wonderful." Sayville firefighter Steve Panasuk didn't need to know Wiedmann to drop everything and attend the homecoming. "When anyone gets hurt, we all show up in force in support. It's a brotherhood," Panasuk said.

In late January, the Syosset Fire Department ran a blood drive that collected 112 pints for the injured firefighter. At that time, Wiedmann's father, Bob Wiedmann, 68, of Baldwin, said there had been many blood drives in the metropolitan area to help his son. Wiedmann's mother, Irene, said she was glad his children could be around their father again. Looking at the crowd, she said, "The shows of support are really what chokes you up."

The soft-spoken Wiedmann said he never doubted that he'd survive and return home to his family. "I never thought I wouldn't walk out of here one day," he said as he left the hospital. "It took three months, but I did it. I'm so grateful for the extraordinary and compassionate care I received from the surgeons, nurses, therapists and everyone at NYP/Weill Cornell.

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