Steve's Story

Steve Burrow with his therapist


Born and raised in Texas, 64-year-old retired patient care coordinator John “Steve” Burrow embraced his role as a 'professional paw-paw,' actively participating in his beloved grandkids' lives. WhenSteve Burrow cooking he was younger, he was passionate about skydiving, but now, fishing and woodworking filled his days. All of this stopped when a sudden bout of septic shock brought his vibrant life to a standstill.

Steve was admitted to Baylor University Medical Center in critical condition. He arrived unconscious and coded for 24 minutes in the ICU before they could revive him. Steve spent three weeks in a coma and slowly started to get necrosis as his body was trying to keep the blood circulating to his major organs. Septic shock triggered acute organ dysfunction, leading to the eventual amputation above the knees on both of his legs and part of both hands. When he awoke, he faced the daunting challenge of navigating life without limbs.

"The first days were a haze of confusion and frustration," Steve recalls. "I felt like a prisoner in my own body." This sense of helplessness drove him to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Dallas and a physician-led, tailored rehabilitation program that would meet his unique needs and goals.

When he first arrived at BSWIR - Dallas, Steve required total assistance. His caregivers had to perform all activities at bed level due to decreased core muscle control and sitting balance and tolerance. He had weakness in his hips, shoulders and core; he suffered from decreased memory and slower cognitive processing and had significant challenges with his speech.

Determined to return home to be a ‘paw-paw’ again, Steve worked hard to regain his independence with physical, occupational, speech and respiratory therapists.

He took quickly to physical therapy, working to regain strength in his core muscles to be able to sit upright in his hospital bed. Working on core exercises, he regained his strength enough to work on balancing exercises. This helped him to sit up straight to begin a transfer from his bed to his powered wheelchair. This progression worked him towards driving his power chair, performing car transfers and eventually walking on his prosthetics.

His pivotal moments were marked when he learned innovative techniques for daily tasks to regain the ability to walk with prosthetics. “I always got an attitude from my PT/OT that I CAN do something and that they [would] help me,” he recalled. “I had decided and tried to tackle everything with a mindset of ‘I can do this; I just have to figure out how.’” Steve's courage was matched by the dedication of the therapists who empowered him to overcome challenges.

In tandem with physical therapy, occupational therapists took charge of helping Steve relearn self-care tasks, such as eating, grooming, using the toilet, dressing and cooking. Speech therapy focused on improving his voice quality and his swallowing abilities, by helping to regain function in his throat muscles. Recreational therapy worked to reintegrate Steve into the community, by educating him on adaptive equipment options, especially adaptive aid for fishing and kayaking. His therapists provided resources on vehicle modification companies and “return to driving” programs for Steve, as he wanted to get back behind the wheel.

Indeed, Steve's rehabilitation experience at BSWIR - Dallas was characterized by collaboration and empowerment. He mentioned, "Here at BSWIR, you are an equal part of your rehab, and if you bring determination and a positive attitude to your rehab, the rehab team can further bolster that and uplift you a lot more to get better outcomes. They have so many tools in their toolbox to help you when you are willing to give it your all."

Steve's story is a testament to resilience, familial support and the remarkable possibilities of rehabilitation. "There's always something good in what happens," he reflected. “I had a great life before all this happened to me, but I have a great life now after the surgeries...different than before, but still great. I have lost weight, I am eating much healthier and I am making great life choices that might help me live longer and stay fulfilled. I am just so lucky to be alive.”

As Steve continues his Journey with BSWIR - Outpatient Therapy, his spirit remains unbreakable. His future goals include driving again, swimming in his pond, cherishing moments with his grandkids and skydiving again for his 65th birthday. He is also very proud to go back to his “paw-paw” duties of cooking family meals and playing with his grandkids. He mentioned, “I am so thankful to the staff at BSWIR - Dallas for helping me gain a thirst for life again!”

In that spirit, Steve left this advice for others going through a similar situation: “I was just a regular guy, and this happened to me, and I fought, I fought hard to get to where I am. If I can do it, I am sure someone else can, too. We don’t have to “just survive” something catastrophic, we can live again with hard work and support from others.”

“With advances in medicine, there are now increased survival rates for patients like me, so more and more people might have to go through rehab - and I wish somebody out there can learn from my story.”