Burn patient remembers acts of kindness from 26 years ago

February 7, 2011

Small acts of kindness can go a long way.  This proved to be true for Debra Salmans who tracked down the St. John’s nurses who cared for her from over 26 years prior. 

Debra Salmans was 13 years old when she was severely burned in a go-cart accident in 1985, and she was cared for by the nurses in the Burn Unit at St. John’s.  The nurses were touched by her and really connected with her while she was a patient there, but then lost contact after Salmans’ discharge. 

Salmans recently pursued finding two of her nurses from 1985, Sylvia Barber and Suzie Morrow.  Barber and Morrow now work at St. John’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Southwest Baptist University, and Salmans went to visit them to catch up after all these years. 

“We thanked them in 1985, but at that time, I did not understand the magnitude of what they had done for me,” Salmans said.  She realized how valuable the nurses were, not only to her, but to her family as well.  The nurses took the time to get to know her family and help them through the difficult time.

The small acts of kindness from the nurses are still meaningful to Salmans today, over 26 years later.  Salmans remembers how the nurses were caring and understanding when she was upset about saying good-bye to her parents every night.  She recalls the nurses helping her keep a tally of the 800-some cards she received.  The nurses went to a Rick Springfield concert and brought Salmans pictures afterward.  Salmans even still has the slippers they gave her at her “Going Home” party on the last day in the unit.

“Nurses can be such a light in an experience that can seem so devastating, and I am so glad that our St. John’s nurses choose to be that light,” Salmans said.  Salmans is a teacher, and married with a new baby who is named Hope. 


  • February 6-12, 2011 is Burn Awareness Week

  • About St. John’s Burn Center:

    • Region’s comprehensive burn and wound center

    • Covers a 200 mile radius

    • Referrals from 35 counties

    • Average of 250 in-patient burns per year

    • Average of 200 out-patient burns per year

Media Contacts

Sonya Kullmann
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Phone: 417-820-2426