Our Story on Fox News
Writen by: Jennifer Burris - 01/05/2015
With the rush of the holidays, it has been a busy few weeks, but I wanted to take a minute to share a big moment for us. On December 14th, Fox 31 aired a segment telling our story to the masses. Anyone who missed this segment can view it at http://kdvr.com/2014/12/14/bringing-robert-home/. Reporter Rob Low did an excellent job of telling our story, and we really appreciate all of his hard work on the clip. This holiday season has been difficult, my first without Robert, but seeing how much our story touched one reporter, as well as all of you who have continued to support this foundation by both donation and by signing the petition gives me hope for the future. I am looking towards this new year as a new opportunity to truly make a difference, and my New Years’ Resolution is to get at least one person home.
In other news, we now have a P.O. Box to which donations can be mailed!
The Robert's Rides Foundation
P.O. Box 813
Littleton, CO 80160-0813
Please print the following document, fill it out, and mail it with your donation.
Tell Your Story
Writen by: Jennifer Burris - 12/12/2014
Have you or someone you know had a similar experience? If so, please email your story to us and we will post it here. Any questionable experience with a hospital is welcome, whether in Las Vegas or another city, traveling or close to home, anonymous or fully acknowledging yourself we want to know. The more voices that raise with us, the louder we will be and the louder we are, the better chance we have of making a difference.
I Choose To Feel The Sun
Writen by: Jennifer Burris - 12/08/2014
On a clear, cold December day, two men stood waiting for a bus, both bundled up in heavy winter coats. The first man was curled into himself with a look of obvious discomfort on his face as he paced back in forth on the platform, shivering. Occasionally, he uncurled his arms to cover his face with his gloved hands, blow on his hands, and then return to his balled state. Meanwhile, the second man stood still and relaxed, smiling as he faced the sun with his eyes closed. The first man stopped pacing and watched, astonished, as the second man unzipped his coat and continued to face the son.
"Are you crazy?" the first man asked, "Can't you feel how cold it is out here?"
"You're right," the second man replied, not opening his eyes, "It is cold out here. But the sun is warm, and I choose to feel the sun."
I've had many people ask me how I can stay so strong and keep going after losing Robert. People who have told me that if they were going through the loss of a spouse so soon after being married, they would be completely incapacitated. This is the best way I can think of to describe how I am feeling. Losing Robert feels like the cold on a chilled winter day. If I think about it or dwell too much on it, I shut down, freeze, and try to find someplace safe and warm to wait for better days. Yet there is still sunshine. My sunshine is the friends and family who have shown just how much they care about me during the coldest days of my life. My sunshine is the children who I have the privilege of teaching every day. My sunshine is remembering all of the wonderful times I had with Robert, knowing how much he loved me, and feeling him with me. With the start of Robert’s Rides, my sunshine is also making huge steps towards helping to change things so that I can save others from this type of a cold day, and how proud I know that makes Robert. I may still have days where the cold is overpowering, where as much as I try I can’t find any warmth. For the rest of the days, however, I will look towards the warm I know exists. I choose to feel the sun.
In the Beginning
Writen by: Jennifer Burris - 12/03/2014
On October 25, 2010, I met the love of my life; an amazingly kind-hearted man named Robert Burris. He was a salesman, he was a writer, he was a gamer, and he had the potential to change the world. Robert was the most romantic man I have ever met. He took me on a whirlwind of dates and adventures our first year together. He planned perfect anniversary and Valentine's activities. He took me to meet his parents, and worked very hard to build a relationship with my mother too. He proposed after getting me a perfect ring, and he let me plan my fantasy wedding. We were married on May 3, 2014. For six months, we started working towards the life we both planned together. He was incredibly supportive as I began my (supposedly) final year of school. He helped me become a part of his incredibly close network of friends. He worked two jobs so that we could save to buy our house together, and we began trying to start a family.
On September 6, 2014, our lives changed. From our home in Denver, Colorado, we traveled to Las Vegas to celebrate one of his best friends' birthday. Robert developed a mysterious fever, and worried he may have something too serious to return to Colorado by the 12-hour drive we had ahead of us, we took him to the emergency room. Thinking he would be sent home with antibiotics and fever reducers, we were shocked when he was admitted to the hospital. We were told it was just to obtain a test for meningitis with the help of radiology, and provided he was clear, he would be released to drive home the next morning. It was obvious, however, that his ER doctor and the doctor assigned to his case in the hospital were not on the same page. Robert's overseeing doctor didn't even come to see him until the afternoon, and rather than discussing his care, treatment options, diagnosis or reasons for his illness, he instead lectured Robert on his weight. His bias and disdain was apparent, and when we told him that we were from out of town and asked what we could do to return Robert to his support network, we were told the only option was to leave AMA and without any help. Still worried that Robert would be unable to make the drive (he was still spiking the fever but otherwise felt ok), we decided to give the hospital one more night to help, with plans to try to make the drive in the morning provided there were no changes.
That night, Robert began having difficulty breathing and was placed on oxygen. The next day he finally received the tests that he was originally admitted for, and it became apparent that his condition was worsening. After a day of being poked and prodded, Robert continued to deteriorate. That night, he was moved to the MICU in order to be placed on a machine similar to a CPAP machine. The room he was given was tiny, with a toilet he was mortified to use, and large open windows facing the elevator. He was supposedly in a more intensive place, yet it took the nurse an hour to come and silence the beeping of his IV line. He spent his last conscious hours in this terrible room; struggling to rest, fighting to breathe on a machine that he could barely tolerate, and all but ignored. Finally, that afternoon; September 9th, 2014, Robert lifted his mask and told me that he needed help and that his lungs were going to give out. I went for the nurse, and he was sedated and intubated. 24 hours showed no improvement, and doctors recommended placing him on an ECMO machine, which would remove carbon dioxide and oxygenate his blood, allowing his lungs to rest. Robert was given a less than 10% chance of survival without it.
At this point I first became faced with the possibility that I might lose Robert. Less than a year after our marriage, and completely alone, I had to deal with the heart-wrenching pain alone because we were still in Las Vegas. Robert's parents came to stay with me on September 11, 2014, from Georgia. Robert's mother, Shannon, was the only breadwinner in a very crowded household, caring for both Robert's father Leonard, who has Lupis, Robert's grandfather, who was aging and ailing, as well as a family of friends who stayed with them for help. She is a McDonald's employee. Yet both she and Robert's father put their lives on hold and their health at risk to come to Las Vegas to support me and to be there for Robert. For the next month, we worked together to try to ensure that Robert was at least receiving adequate care, to try to come up with things to try to get him better, and above all to get him transferred home to Colorado.
The transfer we worked for was for two reasons, first and foremost was the medical necessity of it. After 9 days on ECMO, Robert had impressed even the doctors and was taken off of ECMO, with the expectation that he would be weaned off of the ventilator within a week based on how his lungs had cleared. So two weeks after his removal, when he was still heavily reliant on the ventilator, the doctors searched for other reasons and found that he had pulmonary hypertension. The doctors at that time recommended his transfer to Colorado in order to receive care from the pulmonary specialists there, as no one in Nevada could match them. The second treason for the transfer was that after a month with no work and having to pay for a hotel to stay in Las Vegas, in addition to all of our regular bills, both myself and Shannon found that we were unable to stay with Robert for much longer. That meant that Leonard would be faced with the same horrific situation that I was; going through all of it alone. So for Robert's best interest as well as our own, we tried to get Robert transferred home. Blue Cross Blue Shield, however, only covered transfers that were “medical necessity” and not “convenience,” and they ruled that this transfer was “convenience.” The cost of such a transfer out of pocket was over $10,000.
On October 9th, 2014, I returned to Colorado. It was the second-hardest decision I've ever made due to the fact that on October 8th, Robert had a major setback due to his ventilator tube coming unplugged. Financially, however, I couldn't stay, and Robert had been holding stable if not really improving despite the setback. I was hoping that by working from the Colorado side of things, I might be able to expedite the transfer process. So while Leonard worked as hard as he could to make sure Robert received what he needed and Shannon returned to Georgia to take care of their household, I worked hard in Colorado to have him transferred. Meanwhile Robert began to slowly creep towards waking up. On October 20th, I received a call from the pulmonologist who was on rotation with Robert at the time and was informed that he did not believe Robert would survive. When I asked what else they were doing, whether or not they were testing Robert for some of the conditions we had researched, and why they were telling us Robert's lungs had cleared but he was still not improving, this doctor could only blame Robert's weight. Robert's overseeing doctor had left Robert's care in the hands of his pulmonologists, and because this pulmonologist wrote Robert off because of his weight, Robert did not receive the care of anything he should have for two weeks, including the pressure sores he had developed by this time. Again, I was faced with the reality that Robert might not recover, but I had no choice but to continue working towards his transfer.
Fox news contacted me the following week to help us tell our story, and my hopes rose again. Robert had an amazing week after he received his next pulmonologist, he was becoming more responsive, his ventilator settings had been lowered, and this pulmonologist was very hopeful, saying Robert was stable enough for the transfer. As Halloween came and went, I felt like we were finally on the right track.
On November 2nd, 2014, Leonard's report stated that the progress of the previous week seemed to have slipped a little bit; Robert had developed a slight fever and his ventilator settings had been turned up slightly, but he was still responsive and we believed this to be only a minor setback. The following day, Leonard began calling me at work and I knew something was wrong. Robert's nurse for the day told me that Robert was crashing; he was not oxygenating effectively, his heart was racing but his blood pressure was low, and she believed his pressure wounds had become septic. After a very long night, a serious discussion with Robert's two best friends, my mother, and Leonard, and a plane ride back to Las Vegas, I was faced with the hardest decision of my life. Robert's shoulder was completely black, his fever was at 105.6 F, and his eyes were vacant.
On November 4th, 2014, after giving all of his friends and family the chance to say goodbye over the phone, with me holding his hand and ringed by some of his best friends and Leonard, Robert was taken off life support. He didn't gasp, didn't even try to breathe, he just slipped away peacefully. In that moment, my heart broke completely and irreparably, because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he could have been saved. If the doctors and nurses had admitted they were out of their element with him and advocated for his transfer to a place that could have saved him, if they would have looked past his weight and tried to find out what was really wrong, if Blue Cross Blue Shield would have approved the transfer immediately, if I would have had the money or could have raised the money to pay the retainer quicker, Robert would have survived.
I realized during this whole heartbreaking experience just how broken our medical system is. In the United States, we are guaranteed three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Robert had all of these taken away because I couldn't afford to get him to the doctors that could have fixed him. I want to save everyone I can from this experience, and I want to fix our medical system because home is healing and no one's life should be based on how much money they have.