From Burns to Bites, the Pediatric Wound Clinic is Here to Help

In hindsight, it happened so fast. Mere seconds. That’s all the time curious toddler Greyson Clark needed as his mother, Sara Curran, of Nassau, stepped away to let the dog out in early May. In that brief span of time, Greyson, then 1, strolled into his parents’ bathroom and pulled the cord on the hot curling iron resting on the counter.

Shaun Clark received a frantic FaceTime call at work from his distraught girlfriend following the accident, which resulted in a nasty second-degree burn on Greyson’s left wrist and forearm. “I couldn’t tell who was crying harder,” he recalled.

After seeking treatment for Greyson at the Massry Family Children’s Emergency Center, he was referred to Albany Med’s Pediatric Wound Clinic, the only one of its kind in the region.

Janeen Smith, PA-C, program coordinator, said she sees burn cases like Greyson’s “all the time.” And as is frequently the case, the guilt-ridden parents are more traumatized than her patients. Smith soothingly reassures moms and dads while gently tending to her patients’ medical needs. Parents tend to set an emotional tone during the visit so Smith encourages them to “keep a positive, upbeat attitude and your kid will, too.”

Last summer, the Division of Pediatric Surgery launched the outpatient clinic, which specializes in acute and chronic wound management, including burns, trauma, animal bites, abscesses and embedded foreign bodies. Burn cases are most prevalent – Smith has seen a steady number lately of children spilling hot liquids on themselves – and she anticipates a rise in campfire-related burns with summer’s return. Under her leadership, the clinic has access to the full complement of pediatric surgeons available at the children’s hospital as well as child life specialists to help ease patient and family anxiety.

Gently applying ample amounts of antibiotic ointment with a tongue depressor and using nonstick gauze so it doesn’t adhere to the newly healing scar, Smith expertly treated Greyson’s burns. When appropriate, she likes to use a special dressing that activates on contact with a cooling, antimicrobial substance, noting the right products can make a world of difference. She advised Greyson’s parents to keep moisturizing the scar and using sunscreen to prevent skin discoloration as it heals.

Clark said he appreciated Smith’s calm, reassuring demeanor and her advice throughout the process. After just over a month of closely following Smith’s daily instructions, he said Greyson’s scar “is healing up very nicely.” He is back to swimming in his grandparents’ pool and bouncing on the family’s backyard trampoline with his older brother. “He’s back to his little maniac self,” Clark joked.