COLORADO SPRINGS — It's amazing how often so many of us take the little things in life for granted. Like being able to shake hands. It’s something 18-year-old Konnor Burge will likely never take for granted after almost losing his arm in a car accident that forever changed his family.
In late July, there was a reunion at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs between Konnor Burge, his family and many of his caregivers. The reunion marked a turning point in the Burge family's life, which was turned upside down late December of 2020.
Stormy Burge, Konnor’s mom, looks back now and tells me, “It was a rough time. Probably the roughest time of our lives.”
Stormy also says she clearly remembers when the whole situation began to unfold. “I was working from home because of COVID. I support assisted living communities and I was getting a lot of calls that morning. I kept getting a call from one number over and over and I was like, ‘Oh, it's a telemarketer, I'm not going to answer that. I'm busy.’ Then I started seeing my son and my mother-in-law call and I knew something was wrong.”
When Stormy picked up she got the news no one ever wants to receive. “They said, ‘You need to get a hold of the state trooper, or the hospital because there was an accident.’ So frantically I started calling through all the numbers that I could find for the hospital and state patrol. I finally got a hold of the state trooper who let me know about the accident. So I called my older two sons and they raced home from work and drove me down here.”
While Stormy was making the trip from her home in Brighton to southern Colorado, Konnor and his brother were getting needed medical care.
Konnor tells me he doesn’t remember much about that day. He was in the passenger seat, traveling home to Brighton after visiting his grandparents in New Mexico. They were outside of Salida, on Poncha Pass, when the accident occurred. “I just remember driving with my brother and my dad in the car. I don't actually remember that crash. I just remember right after - my brother was in the backseat screaming and my dad just laying there.”
The accident had taken a nearly instant toll on the Burge family. His dad Brandon was gone. Konnor says, “My dad passed away instantly at the accident site.”
Konnor and his brother Kris had both suffered major injuries, but Konnor seemed to be in the worst shape once doctors started getting a closer look at both of them.
Once Konnor arrived at the Level I Trauma Center emergency room at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, he was in the care of many specialists, including Dr. Jonathan Barnwell, an orthopedic trauma surgeon.
Dr. Barnwell says of Konnor: “He had several devastating injuries. Any one of those injuries alone can impact your entire life. His upper arm was broken at the shaft; we call it a comminuted fracture, which means the bone is in several pieces. His nerves were exposed. We were literally looking at his nerves.
When I first saw Konnor, I couldn't believe that he still had nerve function; we were scratching our heads as to how.”
But that nerve function in Konnor’s arm is what gave his doctors options, instead of a clear-cut decision.
Dr. Barnwell says, “I really thought Konnor might end up with an amputation. It's a conversation we had.”
It was also a conversation Stormy says she had with several doctors that night.
In our next story, we’ll meet the team of medical experts involved and the steps they had to take to save Konnor's arm.
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