LITTLETON, N.H. — For the past 41 years, Elzey and Elaine Burkham ran Burkham Construction, a contracting firm performing residential, new construction, and renovation work in Campton, New Hampshire, on the southern edge of the White Mountains. They dreamed of retiring to a cabin they would construct near their beloved mountains. In anticipation of that day, they built a cabin in Littleton, New Hampshire, on the northern edge of the White Mountains, which they called their little slice of heaven on earth. They planned to live there with their German short-haired pointer named Tikka. In February, Elzey Burkham slipped on the ice and broke his hip. For four months, he struggled with pain and doctors told him he needed a new hip. He had hip replacement surgery on June 20, 2016, but on July 6, doctors discovered an infection and put him on antibiotics. A week later the redness was gone, but Elzey was running a temperature. He was advised to go to the emergency room, and when he did, he told the doctor that his legs were going numb. He was admitted to the hospital, and was transferred the next day to a Regional Medical Center.

The infection had done its damage, and Elzey woke up paralyzed from the chest down on July 16.

Extensive tests were run both at the Regional Medical Center as well as at a rehab facility in Massachusetts, but they were inconclusive. Doctors simply could not explain what had happened, and the Burkham’s were left to figure out how to live with paralysis. That also meant Elzey had to close his business much sooner than he’d wished to do so. The pair was immediately faced with unanticipated needs that were not covered by insurance, such as outfitting their Chevy suburban with driving controls, having a ramp installed on their cabin, widening doors and remodeling the bathroom, and installing a ceiling-based Hoyer lift to help Elzie navigate from his bed to his wheelchair. The lift was important because Elaine had mastectomies due to breast cancer in November 2015, so she had to be cautious about lifting weight. With his income reduced to Social Security disability

and a small monthly stipend from a long-term disability policy the pair began pulling from its retirement savings to help fund these items. They also read about the Joseph Groh foundation from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation website. They petitioned the foundation for assistance with the ceiling based Hoyer lift.

Thanks to the foundation’s gracious donors, Elzey and Elaine’s requests were met.

The Burkham’s have retained an attorney, who is determining whether they have a legal case, — even though they realize it is very unlikely any doctor will testify it was the surgery that caused the paralysis. Meanwhile, Elzey continues to rehab in order to regain as much strength and function as possible. After the lift was installed, Elaine wrote and said “You have no idea how this lift has changed our lives. It has made a very difficult situation easier to handle.”

Publication date: 1/9/2017

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