COLORADO SPRINGS — After surviving a devastating car accident, doctors at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central were able to save Konnor Burge’s badly broken right arm from having to be amputated, but getting the use of that arm back was then mostly up to Konnor.
Konnor had suffered multiple injuries in an accident on Poncha Pass near Salida in December of 2020. His injuries were so severe that he was airlifted to Colorado Springs for trauma care. The accident was not only physically devastating – he suffered shattered bones in his arm and leg – but also emotionally devastating for his family. Konnor’s father was killed in the accident.
Putting his broken arm and leg back together was a feat of orthopedic and reconstructive skill spearheaded by Dr. Jonathan Barnwell and Dr. Fred Deleyiannis, along with dozens of other caregivers. At times, there were worried discussions that Konnor might lose his arm.
Konnor says, “I was in the hospital for 21 days; I had 14 surgeries in total.”
After the hospital came considerable healing, and physical therapy to rebuild his arm. Konnor says, “I still go to physical therapy twice a week. Just to keep strengthening muscles and getting my arm stronger.”
Konnor says when the going gets tough in rehab, that’s when he thinks of his dad the most. “My dad had a spinal cord injury that he got, that he had at work, and he had two neck surgeries and he just never gave up and always pushed through. So that just helps me get through everything, knowing that he never quit and always pushed through any pain or anything that he ever went through.”
Says Konnor’s mom, Stormy: “He’s so much like his father. I see him and everything he does and his determination and his will, his strength. It all comes from his father and I’m so very proud of him.”
The entire Burge family is grateful for the support they have received from so many people.
Konnor says, “I have a great support system, with my mom, my grandparents and my girlfriend.
Adds Stormy: “It was a rough time. This has probably been the roughest time of our lives. But, we've had a lot of support, I'm really grateful for that.”
This summer, Konnor and his family traveled from their home in Brighton, northeast of Denver, to Colorado Springs to meet with hospital staff.
“What I was watching for without saying it, was how he could actually shake hands,” Dr. Deleyiannis said of the reunion. “Is he able to flex easily and shake my hand? Would he have good grip strength? Is he able to have at least 90 degrees plus flexion of the elbow? All that was made possible by the bone reconstruction and the soft tissue reconstruction, and it's the little things that you may not notice that make things worthwhile.”
These kinds of reunions are truly appreciated by all the caregivers who work so tirelessly to care for all patients, day in and day out.
Dr. Barnwell says, “This makes all the difference in the world to us. We see many, many patients here who are in pretty bad shape and seeing someone come through the other end of this after just not only getting their life back together, but excelling and having a bright future. This is the reason why we do this, and it fills your heart more than you can imagine. So this is one of my greatest joys.”
Dr. Deleyiannis says, “It was a little overwhelming; we don't often get to see patients a year or a year and a half out after surgery to see how well they're doing. Just to see the long-term results is remarkable. And to see somebody who's so motivated and has such a sense of determination and grit, I mean it really makes us thankful for being able to help somebody like that.”
While Konnor’s experience may have been enough to make many people never want to see the inside of a hospital again, Konnor says he now wants to use his experience to help others who may have to travel a similar road. He wants to become a doctor with a focus on sports medicine. “I can relate to them (future patients) and everything with severe injuries and the pain with all that I've been through.”
Dr. Barnwell says he thinks Konnor will make a great doctor. “I think it's a testament to Konnor. I understand that sentiment completely. I think Konnor, he just has a positive attitude. I think he embraces challenges and it causes him to excel. So I credit Konnor for having that attitude. I think that takes a special person to kind of go through all that and go back into it. That's just that speaks of him and his family and just what they've been able to endure and grow from. So he'll continue to grow and hopefully we get him on our team so we can have someone special like that.”
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