Gifts, visits ease burn victims' pain during holiday season

Posted December 14, 2019 5:36 p.m. EST
Updated December 14, 2019 7:46 p.m. EST

— Burn victims at the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center can’t be home for Christmas, so to help ease their pain, a group of firefighters from Garner paid a visit on Saturday.

Don Johnson, who calls himself Captain Claus, wanted the patients to get a simple message: “There is folks out there thinking about you," he told them.

For 20 years, Johnson and others from Garner Fire & Rescue have been sharing gifts and time, giving those burn victims the opportunity to forget about their pain.

"That is really what they want, for someone to offer them a hand, just to say someone is thinking about you. We are just a friendly face they can see,” Johnson said.

There are times when the victims' pain moves even "Capt. Claus" to tears.

"It is an emotional rollercoaster sometimes," he said.

Belinda Byrd, whose husband suffered burns over 65% of his body when he race car exploded, appreciated the kind support from strangers.

Mark Byrd was inside his car when it had a gas leak. He was given a 50-50 change of survival and was in a coma for weeks.

The visit from firefighters, Belinda Byrd said, "makes you feel you are not alone."

Burn Center Dr. Felicia Williams knows that goes a long way with patients facing a long recovery.

“It's an emotional, long hospitalization that requires all of us to think beyond just their medical care," she said.

Garner Fire & Rescue raises funds year-round to pay for the gifts delivered to the burn center. They donate thousands to programs supporting burn victims. A number of other local fire departments also support the effort.

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