Bert Burns’ Academic And Athletic Accomplishments After His Injury

Today, Bert Burns is a successful entrepreneur and role model.

Today, Bert Burns is a successful entrepreneur and role model.

Editor’s Note: Bert Burns, one of the owners of UroMed, was hit by a drunk driver in January of 1982 and thrown out of his car. At the time, Burns was a college student majoring in business at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. After the accident, doctors discovered that his neck was broken at vertebrae C6 and C7, leaving him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. He said that after his injury, he, “had some great therapists, and one of them got me involved in wheelchair sports. She completely changed my life. I thought sports were over for me. When I was discharged, I wanted to affect people positively and give the gift of sports to others with spinal cord injuries. I transferred to the University of Florida to major in recreation therapy.” Part 1 of a 5 part series.

Today Bert Burns is an entrepreneur and a successful businessman; he’s also a world class athlete. “I was a better athlete after my injury than I was before my injury,” Burns says. Burns first got involved in wheelchair racing in 1982 and competed recreationally at the beginning. But from 1990 until 2004, he was on the USA Wheelchair Racing Team, competing in several world championships and several Pan American games and winning a gold medal in the 4X400 relay at the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992. A long distance wheelchair racer, Burns’ main events were the 1500 meter, the 5000 meter, and the marathon. Burns was best in the marathon. He also played wheelchair rugby, also known as “murder ball,” for 13 years where four wheelchair athletes lined up on one side and four more on the other side of a basketball court. The goal was to smash your chair into your opponent’s chair and knock him over, so you could carry the ball across the goal line. After winning a gold medal and several bronze medals at the Paralympics through the years, Burns also won a bronze medal at the World Championship in France in 2002 at age 41.

Bert is a paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair racing. Welcome to the gun show!

Bert is a paralympic gold medalist in wheelchair racing. Welcome to the gun show!

After I finished college with a degree in recreation therapy, I moved to Atlanta and started working at the Shepherd Center. I worked there for about 5 years and enjoyed helping other injured people discover what they could do. Although I met some really great folks during my time at the Shepherd Center, I never gave up my dream of going into business for myself.  My accident put that dream on hold, and I took a different career path. But down deep within me, the dream of owning my own business never left.

Bert spent a lot of his time at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bert spent a lot of his time at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

But I was really conflicted. I still wanted to help people in wheelchairs and own my own business. At one time, I couldn’t see how I could do both. However, as I got older and began to look into the medical profession, I discovered that I could own my own business and help people in wheelchairs in a different way. 16 years ago, in 1996, a partner and I started UroMed, a urological medical supply company. About a year ago, UroMed hired a PR/Marketing person named Lisa Wells, who had many technical skills relating to the Internet, social media and marketing. Lisa set up a website and named it LASCI – Life after Spinal Cord Injury. We encouraged people in wheelchairs and with other physical problems to ask questions on the site that I’d try and answer them for them, since there was no textbook that covered all the problems and issues for which people with spinal cord injuries needed answers.

Because I’ve been in a wheelchair for 30 years and had talked to several people who had spinal cord injuries, I thought I might be able to help others with the knowledge I’d gained about life in a wheelchair. However, the first time I went online on LASCI to answer a question from a lady who had a paraplegic friend who had been discharged 2 months earlier from the hospital but wouldn’t leave the house after he arrived home, I quickly discovered that there were others who could answer her question as well as I could. When the lady wrote in, I gave her my answer, and a few hours later when I went back on the Internet to learn if my advice had helped this lady, I saw that 19 other people had given her answers too. When I realized the number of people who were interested in sharing how they solved problems relating to spinal cord injuries, I thought, “Wow, this chatroom could really take off and become something meaningful and important to a lot of people.”

Bert Burns speaks with patients and family members at UMPC Pittsburgh.

Bert Burns speaks with patients and family members at UMPC Pittsburgh.

Initially I thought that I’d be the person helping other people in LASCI, because of my own experiences. But I quickly learned that people in the spinal cord injury community solved a problem in many different ways. I wanted to give advice and helpful hints to anyone who might have a problem or need more information about his or her life in a wheelchair. I also wanted to help friends and family who knew someone in a chair. My initial thought was to let as many people know as possible that they did not have to live a poor quality life, just because they were in wheelchairs or had spinal cord injuries. Yes, your life has changed, but you still can have one that’s rich and fulfilling. And, by all of us helping each other, we can get to a happy, productive place much quicker. And that’s the reason for our blog that you’re reading now – to show you what other people are doing who have major injuries and how many of them go on to succeed, become great and do the impossible. Today, more and more individuals in wheelchairs are becoming great and proving that they can live rich and fulfilling lives. To become a part of LASCI online, go to www.facebook.com/LASCIonline.

Life After Spinal Cord Injury (LASCI) is a great way for people with spinal cord injuries to connect.

Life After Spinal Cord Injury (LASCI) is a great way for people with spinal cord injuries to connect.

When I saw that 19 people had replied to the first lady who wrote in with a problem, I thought, “Wow. LASCI can really be a vehicle where people from all over the world can share their problems and hopefully find solutions.” And I was so glad I wasn’t the only person who wanted to help individuals with spinal cord injuries. Today, LASCI has about 7,000 people who come to the site and bring and share problems and solutions with each other. LASCI only was started in February, 2011, so the site’s only been up for less than a year. Prior to LASCI online, I’d gone and spoken to different groups about spinal cord injuries and tried to answer questions, especially for people who had been recently injured. I had started speaking to groups, because when I was injured, a guy who had been injured for 7 or 8 years came and talked to me. He proved to me that my life wasn’t over, just because I was in a wheelchair. I’ve met hundreds of people online that I spend a great deal of time with, although they’re not able to get out of the house or drive. They can sit at their computers and learn and communicate online. Besides people with spinal cord injuries, we have quite a few people on LASCI that have spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, amputees and any other type of disability that causes them to be in a wheelchair. Come join us!

Next: Bert Burns’ Involvement With Onsite LASCI Programs

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

One Response to Bert Burns’ Academic And Athletic Accomplishments After His Injury

  1. Heather Meixsell -formerly Heather Homer says:

    Bert,

    You have been an inspiration to me from the time I met you in high school and I am so proud that you are inspiring thousands every day! You have surpassed anything I could have ever thought you would be and I am extremely proud to call you friend. The Lord has truly shined on you in your life by giving you a vision,dream to share with multitudes and a family any person could only hope to have in their life. On behalf of all your friends from CHS and the thousands you have already meant so much to and the thousands more yet to be impacted by your strength and humanity I thank you !

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