Stand By Me
CopperPoint Partners to Bring Worker Back from a Catastrophic Injury
Seth Burns has always been much more than an injured worker. Husband, father of three adopted children, baseball coach, and cell phone tower operator, Seth led a full and productive life that was, by all accounts, normal.
Normal changed for Seth in September 2013 when the unthinkable occurred. When Seth was working on a routine cable and tower repair for his employer, he attempted to move a boulder in a remote stretch of road in Flagstaff, Arizona. Without warning, another boulder weighing 30-tons (equivalent to 60,000 pounds) fell, pinned and crushed him from the knees down.
"It felt like the accident happened in slow motion because I remember everything about it," said Seth. "The weather, my surroundings, even what it felt like to be trapped under the boulder. They say you block those things out, but I have very vivid memories of what happened that day."
Upon arriving at the hospital, Seth lost consciousness for the next three days. His injuries were unforgiving: major internal organ damage, ruptured intestines and pelvic fractures. He required two complete blood transfusions. His first few days on life support were extremely harrowing, and he spent weeks in intensive care as infections ravaged his body.
When doctors told Seth he would never walk again, he said, "Watch me!" Over the next two years, Seth endured nearly 30 surgeries as he began the arduous process of regaining basic life skills such as sitting, standing, walking, driving, and working. He hoped, someday, to even coach youth baseball.
"Seth's injuries, and the emotional and financial toll, could have been debilitating," said Laura Duran, a CopperPoint Claims Adjustor, who oversaw Seth's case as manager of catastrophic injuries and large loss claims. "But, the physical and mental discipline he had to recover was amazing. Seth always looked past his injuries. I've never seen an injured worker with so much resilience, determination and focus."
His work ethic stemmed from his childhood where hard work started early for Seth. At the age of eight, he worked in his father's welding and machine shop. For Seth, working hard wasn't always easy, but he knew it was his only option.
"I was only 30 years old when the accident happened, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I wasn't ready to quit, even though some days in physical therapy it's all I wanted to do. I knew I had to work as hard as possible on my rehabilitation to get the best possible outcome and that's what kept me motivated. My family, friends, employer, doctors and medical partners were such a strong support system for me and they really helped me get to the finish line," said Seth.
One of the key partners in Seth's recovery was Paradigm Outcomes, a medical management team contracted by CopperPoint to manage complex medical cases. Since CopperPoint recognized the severity of Seth's injuries, Paradigm was brought on board to provide medical management services. The collaboration between the two companies would ensure Seth received the best care and support to reach his highest outcome.
Paradigm assigned Lynne Caraway, Network Manager, to oversee Seth's case and serve as his medical advocate. Lynne ensured Seth received all the necessary medical care he required, managed transfers from hospital to hospital, and made accommodations for his home recovery.
"I worked with Seth every step of the way for more than two years, and he truly was the ideal workers compensation patient," said Lynne. "He was motivated and had an extremely positive attitude and those intangibles are what led to his amazing recovery. Seth really had the optimal outcome because he went and fought for it."
Seth's employer, Desert Services International, a commercial construction management contractor, also stood by him every step of the way. A 14-year CopperPoint customer, Desert Services pushed for Seth to return to work, at first in a modified role, and now, four years later, in a full-time position.
"I may not be in the field anymore, but I love what I do," said Seth, who serves as the company's health and safety manager. In this role, Seth coordinates safety programs and writes policies, an ironic twist given his own personal history. "Desert Services was amazing to me throughout my recovery. They never gave up on me or my family. The benefits and rehabilitation services I received as a result of my employer saved my life and, ultimately, my quality of life."
Lynne was so inspired by her experience with Seth she nominated him for the 2016 Fred Brick Memorial Rehabilitant of the Year Awards given annually by the AWCCA. The award is presented to an injured worker who has overcome significant obstacles and has reached his or her highest rehabilitation potential. Seth recalls the night fondly, but more importantly than receiving the cash prize and a certificate of recognition, he was able to celebrate his recovery with his family and Lynne.
"It's very rewarding and gives me a great sense of purpose to see someone like Seth come back from his traumatic injuries," added Lynne. "This is why I do what I do."
Today, Seth suffers from some permanent nerve damage and he may look a little different, but life is back to a new normal. He's not mad about what happened because it's brought him to where he is today. He's closer than ever to his wife, Katharine, his high school sweetheart, and is enjoying every moment of a busy life with kids.
"The week before my accident I was scheduled to coach my son's first year in T-ball," explained Seth. "Obviously, that season never happened. But, I'm coaching again, and it's an awesome feeling to celebrate those victories each and every day."