Camp Susquehanna – A First Timer’s Perspective

Camp Susquehanna – A First Timer’s Perspective

Jessica Banks, Prevention Education Director

Burn Prevention Network

As the Prevention Education Director for the Burn Prevention Network, I have had theimg_0489 opportunity over the past ten years to meet so many phenomenal people and be a part of truly incredible events. This summer, I had a chance to be a part of something truly remarkable that has changed me in a way I am still not fully able to explain. Continue reading

The Center for Disease Control is Celebrating!

5th yr anniversaryThe CDC has kicked off 2016 with pride as they recently announced the 5 year anniversary of the very graphic, anti-smoking campaign “Tips From Former Smokers”! This highly successful effort began in 2012. Since its’ inception, more than 30 very brave people from all parts of the United States and all walks of life have shared their personal and heartfelt stories with the American public in an attempt to make a difference. According to a recent CDC press release “These real-life stories show, in a way that statistics can’t, the suffering and disability smoking causes. Most Americans who have ever smoked have already quit, and most people who still smoke want to quit-this campaign will help them and help them succeed.” Without a doubt, “Tips” ads are both powerful and emotionally charged. The ads typically run consecutively for 20 weeks and can be found in most media markets such as television, radio, billboards, online, magazines and newspapers. Over the past 5 years “Tips” ads have generated more than 600,000 additional calls to 1-800-QUIT NOW. Statistics show when the ad campaign is running, approximately 62% more people contact the Quitline for assistance quitting tobacco. These numbers support the campaigns sustained success. The tobacco related diseases that have been highlighted in the poignant “Tips” ads include many common chronic diseases that are familiar to most adults. They include: Asthma, Buerger’s Disease, Cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Diabetes, Gum (Periodontal) Disease, Heart Disease and Stroke, HIV, Mental Health, Vision Loss and Blindness. Pregnancy and premature birth has also been a featured topic. The “Tips” messages emphasize how tobacco use causes or exacerbates these conditions in tobacco users. The messages are strong but easily relatable. Sadly, cigarette smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, taking the lives of 480,000 each year. In addition, for every person who dies of a tobacco related disease, approximately 30 more suffer from at least one serious illness caused by smoking.   According to CDC data, “cigarette smoking also seriously harms our economy. It costs more than $300 billion a year.” That breaks down to almost $170 billion in direct medical care costs for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity. For more information on how to quit tobacco use please go to or call 610-969-4855.

A Burn Survivor’s Tale

21One would never guess from talking with outgoing, and effervescent recent high school graduate, Megan Boemmel, that five years ago she suffered from a crippling shyness that caused her to withdraw from meeting new people. It was at the height of that dysfunction that Megan suffered a third degree burn to her right hand. Her life was about to change!

“I hid my burned hand for thirty-six hours from my parents,” stated Megan. “I felt as if the injury was my fault and I didn’t want to add more stress to our lives.” That decision resulted in a serious infection to the burned area and ultimately a 10 day stay in the Regional Burn Center at Lehigh Valley Health Network. Instead of shielding her Mom from additional stress, now her mother had to deal with feelings of guilt for not noticing Megan’s burned hand sooner. “Things were pretty bad,” said Megan.

“My burned thumb and finger required grafting,” she explained. “A year later, I had to undergo some reconstructive surgery and ongoing therapy. I was very fortunate, however, that the entire graft took and I experienced few physical complications,” she concluded.

“The burn injury was very painful, and the scars will be with me the rest of my life. I hope I never have to experience this kind of trauma again! However, because of my stay at the Burn Center, and the relationships I developed with the Burn Team, I was invited to attend Camp Susquehanna for youth who have experienced burn injury. Camp Susquehanna was the best thing that ever happened to me in my whole life!” she offered.

“I probably didn’t say more than a dozen words that first year,” Megan reflected. “However, I got to know others who were just like me, and was nurtured by counselors who accepted me as I was.” Megan began to blossom. One year at Camp Susquehanna turned into 4 years of consecutive attendance. This year, as an 18 year-old, she will serve as a Leader-in-Training at Camp Susquehanna. “Megan went from being helped, to helping others at Camp,” reflected Camp Co-Director, Liz Dideon-Hess, Burn Social Worker at the Regional Burn Center. Megan has also attended the World Burn Congress on several occasions and now gladly will talk with anyone about her burn experience. “She is a real role model for other young burn survivors who are still trying to find their way forward after their injuries,”  commented Hess.

Megan’s interests have also blossomed since her recovery. She has studied fencing and undertaken archery. A current goal is to learn and teach American Sign Language. You see, she met a friend at Camp Susquehanna who lost part of her hearing. This energized the now young woman who as a child was too shy to communicate with others, to want to help those who have difficulty communicating. Way to go Megan!

Tips From Former Smokers Campaign, a Personal Viewpoint

cigI recently had the opportunity to interview Christine Brader, a local Lehigh Valley resident who was initially diagnosed with oral cancer in 2007.   She courageously endured 35 radiation treatments and chemotherapy. All signs pointed toward being cured at that time. The cancer then returned in 2008 with surgery as the only viable treatment. Her third bout with oral cancer in 2009 proved to be even more serious, it had spread to her jawbone and was classified as stage IV.

Due to the numerous radiation treatments, Christine lost her teeth and suffered extensive damage to her mouth. Doctors removed half of her jaw during a 10 hour surgery. “I’m missing a quarter of my face. People stare at me all the time,” she says. However, that doesn’t stop this very brave and dedicated woman from being in the public eye and serving as a role model for quitting smoking and all tobacco use or never starting at all.

When Christine was first diagnosed she wanted to learn as much as possible. She turned to the Oral Cancer Foundation and began her research. Christine chose to become involved in the Oral Cancer Foundation. It was at that time she saw a TRUTH Campaign ad for a spokesperson who was a former smoker that was willing to state smoking /all tobacco use causes cancer. No one wanted to do this. Christine agreed and made a commercial that played in movie theaters. A year later casting directors approached Christine to consider working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All she was told was that “this is going to be big, really big!” Since the CDC is a government organization, Christine had to pass many clearances before beginning her work. The very successful initiative is the Tips from Former Smokers Campaign which for the past 5 years has exceeded every expectation. The campaign has dramatically increased awareness of the harmful effects of smoking/all tobacco use as well as calls to the Quitline (1-800-QUIT NOW).

During 2011 Christine recorded two radio ads that would be heard by the entire nation. They can still be heard today on the CDC’s “Tips” website. The formal launch of the campaign was held at a press conference in Washington D.C. during 2012. At this event Christine met all the other “Tips” participants and was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, M.D. It was announced the campaign will include radio, TV, print and billboard ads. The goal is to show the public what the consequences of smoking/all tobacco use can be. As a result tobacco users can suffer lifelong ailments and cope with serious diagnoses. Christine will never be able to eat food again. She now lives with a feeding tube which she will have for the rest of her life. Christine recently participated in the “Tips” 5 year anniversary celebration and conference where they paid tribute to fellow participants who have passed since the campaign began.

Christine is a contracted prevention advocate/ speaker for Tobacco Free Northeast PA. She is passionate about raising awareness at all school grade levels as well as college of the devastating effects of all tobacco use so others don’t have to go through what she has. Her strong but poignant message includes “Tobacco is not cool, not cool at all! It almost cost me my life!” She remains involved with the Oral Cancer Foundation and for the past few years serves as the Director of Patient Support Services Online Form for oral cancer patients and their caregivers. She finds this work very rewarding as it helps people who are struggling with their diagnosis and leads them to supportive information and resources.


Future Tobacco Control Programs Await Funding

Smoking has a well-documented adverse impact on overall health. It is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Annually, more than 480,000 people die from cigarette smoking with another 41,000 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco Free Northeast PA (TFNE) has submitted a three-year grant proposal to the State Department of Health Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control. We have been providing tobacco cessation and prevention programs and services for over 20 years and the Division’s regional primary contractor for the northeast health district (a ten county coverage area) since 2007. TFNE’s goal, under the direction of t he Burn Prevention Network, is to remain a leader in tobacco programming for the State of Pennsylvania.


Grant funding to continue these services are generated by the Tobacco Master Settlement Act and allocated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. We eagerly await confirmation of our 3-year continuation funding due by mid-July 2016.