Retired Chaplain Embodies the Spirit of the NC Jaycee Burn Center - Carolina Country

Retired Chaplain Embodies the Spirit of the NC Jaycee Burn Center

Aftercare program provides spiritual and mental healing

By Ashley Peterson

Retired Chaplain Embodies the Spirit  of the NC Jaycee Burn Center

Shirley Massey (center) receives The Order of the Longleaf Pine, joined by burn survivor Blake Tedder and Program Manager for Aftercare Anita Maready Fields. Photo courtesy of Allie Mullin Photography.

When someone has an open heart in a hospital, it usually means they’re having a life-changing surgery. But for Shirley Massey, an open heart was something she brought with her every day as a chaplain for the adult aftercare program at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

For 32 years, Massey met with burn survivors at the Burn Center to provide spiritual support. She made the difficult decision to retire on May 31, 2019, but the impact she made at the center will live on. Beyond meeting with survivors daily, Massey started the center’s adult aftercare program in 1987, which includes Camp Celebrate, Peer Support and the Burn Survivor Reunion.

Massey was recently awarded with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper for her contributions to the state and community through her service at the Burn Center.

“We’re all spiritual creatures. It’s not about religion,” said Massey. “It’s really hard for patients to readjust to life outside the burn center after a burn injury, so how do we help them be born again? We’re always trying to transform ourselves, and the adult aftercare programs help burn survivors to do that.”

At the 2019 Burn Survivor Reunion held this past November, Massey was recognized for her commitment to helping burn survivors overcome their circumstances. The annual reunion provides an opportunity for survivors to continue both psychological and spiritual healing. Survivors from all over the country were able to thank Massey for her work over the years.

For one survivor, Massey’s support made all the difference in recovering.

“Normal hospitals are not equipped to handle burn injuries. Having [a burn center] here in eastern North Carolina is incredible.”

Blake Tedder was 16 years old when a plane crash in Colorado changed his life. He was life flighted back to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center and spent three months in treatment, where he received 12 skin graft surgeries.

At the time of Tedder’s injury, Massey was just starting the peer support program at the center. Modeled after a national program, it allows burn survivors who have adjusted to life after their injury to spend time with burn survivors being treated at the center. While he was in treatment, Tedder was able to sit with one peer supporter to hear how he was transitioning to life after surviving a burn injury.

“A burn injury is not just a shock, it’s all-encompassing. To see someone living and thriving after a burn injury is such a big deal,” Tedder said.

The adult aftercare program and the development and growth of the Burn Center is made possible by financial support and partnership with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, which have donated nearly $2 million to the center over the years.

“The Burn Center has been an important part of the cooperatives’ commitment to the community for nearly 50 years since we first pledged funding in 1972 to help create it,” said Dale Lambert, CEO of Randolph EMC and a Burn Center Advisory Board Member. “It’s an honor to continue supporting this comprehensive facility, which has made a lasting impact in countless lives around the world through efforts to advance burn prevention education, innovative treatment, research, rehabilitation and life-long after care.”

With community support and a passionate team of caretakers, the center will continue to provide hope in the midst of tragedy for many years to come.”

“Most people don’t realize the importance of having a burn center, but it’s incomprehensible to think about not having one,” said Tedder. “Normal hospitals are not equipped to handle burn injuries. Having one here in eastern North Carolina is incredible.”

About the Author

Ashley Peterson is a corporate communications intern with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

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