CHI Health St. Elizabeth burn unit gets $1.8 million renovation

LINCOLN, Neb. - CHI Health St. Elizabeth is the only burn and wound care center in the state. Every year, it sees approximately 600 patients.

Since July, the burn unit has been undergoing a renovation, to make the space more inviting to patients who may spend months there.

8-year-old Trey Glass spent a month and a half in the burn unit this summer.

"My brother and I were playing survival and we thought we could start a fire even though mom told us not to," Glass said. "He went to go get gas, it dumped, lit the cup on fire and the gasses came up and hit my back."

Glass had burns on 27% of his upper body on the right side. He spent a month in the burn unit, then went to Madonna for a week for physical therapy, and then came back to CHI for another week.

"It was long, it was hard," said Lindsay Glass, Trey's mom. "Learned a lot of stuff I never thought I would have to learn. I felt like the worst mom, but he told me it wasn't my fault. He was so great through the whole thing."

This week, Trey came back to tour the newly renovated burn unit.

"It looks so much brighter, so much more inviting," Lindsay said. "They've done amazing down here, it looks great. During the tour I teared up a little bit because it's like gosh, I don't want to be back here again."

What had been the same floors and walls for 40 years is now painted bright blues and greens, and each room features a different mural by a Nebraska photographer.

"It's what we call distraction therapy," said Christi Chaves, Director of the burn and wound care center. "It helps distract them and helps give them pain relief when they look at this. It can be very comforting."

The renovation was made possible by a former patient.

Phil Giltner, Jr. was the president of First National Bank of Omaha. He was in a bad car crash that nearly killed him, and he spent months in the burn unit.

When he died, his estate donated $1.8 million to CHI Health St. Elizabeth.

Since July, the burn unit has been operating on the fifth floor of the hospital. Staff say they can't wait to get back to a space that is totally their own dedicated to burn and wound care.

The new burn unit will be open Monday.