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'Burnin' Down the House' Fundraising Event to Raise Money for Regional Burn Center


MOBILE, Ala., (Sept. 8, 2014) - Will Sims may not be able to play guitar and drums any more, but he still loves music and the musicians who make it. And he still has the highest regard for the people and the burn center who have given him back his life.

So it seems only natural to combine the two by organizing a benefit.

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bluegill on the Causeway, four local musicians — Harrison McInnis, Josh Ewing, Zack Chavers and Jon Coxwell — will team up for an evening of blues and more. Funds from the cover charge and a portion of restaurant sales will go to benefit the Arnold Luterman Regional Burn Center at the USA Medical Center.

Sims never expected to know the burn center so intimately.

He was just going to work, doing his job as a machinist and welder at UTC Aerospace in Foley — cutting through metal with a plasma torch — when the sparks ignited fumes inside a container.

What happened next is a blur, Sims said. He knows he was burned over 50 percent of his body. “You don’t know what’s happening,” Sims said. “You know you’re in pain, but that’s it.”

He does know that he was airlifted to the Burn Center at the University of South Alabama Medical Center and spent the next two months of his life in the Burn Intensive Care Unit, followed by a week on the burn floor.

“I couldn’t have been in a better place,” says Sims. “Everybody is real caring.”

While he was there, other former patients came by to answer questions for him and his family and to offer encouragement. Now he has been back, too, reassuring patients that they will recover and that everything will be good again.

“Will has become our burn ambassador,” says nurse manager Angela Duffy. “He comes and talks to long-term patients and gives them a pep talk, telling them, ‘You can live a normal life, and you will get better.’”

Burn patients have to work to get better, Duffy says. “It’s not the same as breaking a leg or having an appendectomy. The work they have to do in the hospital and after discharge is unbelievable in order to keep their body moving and their muscles in shape.”

But every time Sims comes in to visit patients, “their outlook has gotten better and they’ve started working harder.”

Sims learned that another former patient, Stephen Garrett, had organized a benefit for the burn center last summer and recognized it as a great idea, so he followed suit.

“I think they’re awesome people,” Sims says. “My goal personally — as a burn victim — is to appreciate them.”

The appreciation goes both ways. Says Duffy, “It’s so much to continue working for, when you have patients like that. It’s hard to do this work. You see tragic things.

“When you have someone like Will, who is a success story, who comes back and says if it weren’t for you he wouldn’t be alive — that makes it worthwhile,” she adds.

“I’m very thankful there’s a place, close by, that I could go and there are people there who knew how to take care of me,” Sims says.

About the University of South Alabama Medical Center

The University of South Alabama Medical Center offers patient-centered care to the central Gulf Coast with unique services including Mobile’s only Level I Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center, plus Centers of Excellence in stroke care and cardiovascular diseases, and a wide range of acute care services.

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