In the early hours of May 17, 2017, a fire broke out at a Michigan motel, the result of an explosion. Brian, his mother and brother suffered injuries and were airlifted to a local hospital. Brian’s wounds were significant, with burns covering 85% of his body.
Brian’s father, Robert, recalls being told his son had less than a 5% chance of survival. Robert L. Sheridan, M.D., medical director of the Boston Shriners Hospital burn service, learned about Brian and knew that the Boston hospital staff could help.
Robert explained, “Dr. Sheridan jumped into action and got us medically flown to Boston. It was all his doing – his network and the Shriners network. We were in a bad situation when the Shriners called, and that’s how Brian’s life was saved.”
Members of the Detroit Moslem Shriners are an important part of Brian’s network, providing emotional support as well as financial assistance for transportation and housing related to Brian’s medical care. They fiercely advocate for Brian at every turn. Local Detroit Shriners routinely work with staff members at the Boston Shriners Hospital to help with travel arrangements to and from Boston, and check in often to offer assistance.
In the past three years, Brian has undergone over 200 procedures and surgeries at the Boston Shriners Hospital, including a tracheostomy. Scar tissue impairs his airway and this procedure made it easier for Brian to breathe. However, without further surgical intervention, there was a possibility that Brian’s airway could close completely, taking away his ability to speak.
Brian and Robert returned to Boston in August for a series of procedures to open his airway and remove the tracheostomy tube. This will give Brian more freedom and eliminate the painstaking process of cleaning his tube regularly.
Doctors originally scheduled this surgery in April but had to postpone due to statewide restrictions on certain surgical procedures implemented because of COVID-19. Robert said the family was heartbroken when they got the news. “We have been trying to get this done for a very long time; it was all set, and we had a date set.”
The family stays in close contact with Melissa Brown, a social worker at the Boston Shriners Hospital who has been working with them since Brian’s first day as a patient. “She goes above and beyond her job for our family. She’s been my rock through all of this,” said Robert.
Melissa stayed in touch with the family while they waited for a new date. “Brian has made such incredible progress in just a few years. His resilience and determination are impressive, and I am honored to be a part of his care team,” said Melissa.
“Brian approaches all aspects of his treatment with resolve and a positive attitude. He always asks insightful questions and knows how to advocate effectively for himself. Brian has come a long way since 2017, and, as a medical professional, it is heartening to see such progress after a significant injury,” said Dr. Sheridan.
It has been a long journey. Shriners Hospitals for Children’s mission is to care for pediatric patients regardless of families’ ability to pay. Most of Brian’s surgical care can and has occurred at the Boston Shriners Hospital. Brian’s family submitted a request to their insurance company for the care received outside of the Shriners Hospitals system, which was denied. The family appealed, but the insurance provider maintained that coverage would only apply if procedures were performed in Michigan. Robert was not comfortable with this because almost all of Brian’s care had been in Boston at Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Brian and Robert wanted to work with Dr. Sheridan and the care team who knew Brian best. Robert estimates that 98% of Brian’s care has been through the Boston Shriners Hospital. “Shriners has been there for us and has made things as easy as possible. There is a level of comfort for Brian and that is important,” said Robert.
When insurance would not cover any of the $150,000 Robert would need to pay for the aspects of care that could not occur at the Boston Shriners Hospital, he created a GoFundMe account. The response was overwhelming. Within days, over $150,000 was raised and Brian’s story had attracted national media attention. The family also reports that, after additional conversations with their insurance provider, some of Brian’s treatment is now being covered.
Brian, 17, is a junior who loves swimming, fishing and all sports. His favorite is basketball and he loves the Boston Celtics. Robert described Brian as an all-around athlete prior to the explosion – on the track, basketball and football teams. He is an honor roll student with aspirations to work in the field of burn care, possibly as a doctor or a social worker. Brian has a message for his care team and all of his supporters. “I would like to thank the entire Shriners community, and everyone who came together to make this happen. It’s truly amazing what the Shriners organization has done for my family and me over the years. I am so grateful!” he said.
Robert has established the Brian Adams Foundation, which will provide resources and connections for children with burn injuries. He has also created a Facebook page, Recovery4Brian, so people can follow Brian’s story.