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Weekly Tips & Insights

A Palliative Care Journey of Faith & Hope

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

In 2018, Michael and Jan Burroughs were in their car when they got hit at 80 mph by another driver. It’s a miracle they survived, but it put Jan in the hospital for a month and rehabilitation for a year. Shortly after, she experienced a stroke, the first of three she would have over the course of the next five months. These strokes have left her incapacitated and without the ability to communicate. Jan has lived with these complications for over two years.

While she was in the hospital, Michael and the hospital staff had serious conversations around whether it was best to pursue hospice or palliative care. Michael chose palliative care for his wife as he saw it as an expression of hope that she would get better, and this ultimately got them connected with the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA). The VNA team has provided compassionate, at-home care for Jan ever since.

VNA’s Advanced Illness Management (AIM) program has made a world of difference for Michael and his wife. “As tough a situation as we have here, it would be a whole lot tougher without VNA,” says Michael. “It was a smart move to put her in VNA’s care. They know what they’re doing. I’m a phone call away, and they all know who I am.”

Through AIM, Jan has received the treatment she needs to keep her symptoms under control and stay at home where Michael can best take care of her. Not only that, but VNA has assisted Michael in finding other necessary resources to make sure that Jan’s care is coordinated and holistic. When Jan needed a primary care physician, VNA arranged for one to come to Michael and Jan’s home. “They have been a big help with anything I’ve needed,” says Michael. “I haven’t asked them to do anything for me that they haven’t been able to come up with some kind of a solution for.”

Michael has turned this experience into a spiritual mission to spread hope to other caregivers in similar situations, a mission that led him to write his book Moving Mountains: Facing Strokes with Faith and Hope. In the book, he details his and his wife’s testimony.

“The opening line in my book is ‘You can’t have a testimony without first having a test.’ This book is the story of our test. Hers is from a medical standpoint, and mine is from a caregiver standpoint. I’m still in control of my faculties, so I have an obligation to bring about her healing or die trying.”

Michael doesn’t have to go about this test alone and stresses that as a mortal, even with a commitment to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he must draw on all available resources to help, which is where VNA fits in. “I look at VNA like when you run a marathon, you have water stations, and VNA is my mile marker water station. I’m running along, I’m weary, and when I need that refreshment, I can call on VNA, and it’s like having the people that hand out water to runners at a marathon.”

Michael is thankful for VNA and thankful for the daily miracle of his wife’s survival: “I wake up in the morning thanking God I see her breathing, and when she’s gone to sleep, I thank God for having gotten us through the day. We didn’t just enter it; we finished it. Then I ask God to get us through tomorrow. We’ve been at these single days for two years. There are miracles in our midst. The miracle I can readily see is one day after another when we weren’t supposed to have them.”



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