John Burrows, 59, has suffered from a variety of ailments, including a heart attack and multiple back problems, over the past three years.
The Albion resident ended up in the emergency room on several occasions, including one time when he had to be transported by air to Portneuf Medical Center.
Despite spending many long hours seeking medical treatment, the doctors had no answers for him or his wife Jody.
“He’s been misdiagnosed so many times over the past three years,” said Gretchen Anderson, his sister-in-law.
When he took a turn for the worse last fall, doctors referred John and Jody to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. On their first visit in December, the couple finally got the answer they were looking for.
John was suffering was POEMS syndrome, an extremely rare blood disorder that affects the nervous system and causes a host of other problems throughout the rest of the body.
John and Jody recently returned from a second stint at the Mayo Clinic where he underwent chemotherapy. On Sunday, they went back to Minnesota so John can undergo a stem-cell transplant.
“They harvest healthy stem cells from John, then they transplant them in other parts of his body,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who used to work as a journalist, remembers covering a stem-cell transplant that was conducted on Pokey Allen in the early 1990s for treatment for a rare form of muscle cancer. Allen was the head coach of Boise State University’s football team from 1993 to 1996.
“This was when stem-cell transplants were new in Idaho,” she said. “Back then, the surgery took you to the brink of death.”
Though Allen succumbed to the disease in 1996, Anderson said the transplants have come a long way since then.
The disease itself has taken a physical, emotional and financial toll on both the Burrows family and Pomerelle Mountain Resort, where John works as the mountain manager and Jody serves as the general manager. Neither one of them has been able to work this winter ski season due to John’s condition.
“It’s been a challenge,” Anderson said, who is also the resort’s marketing and communications director. “We’ve done a good job of holding down the fort without them, but John was integral to what goes on there and so is my sister.”
Physically, John has lost about 50 pounds and has become extremely weak. Seeing this transformation has been difficult for his family and friends, who say he is a hard working guy who, before the disease made its impact, would put no thought about putting on a 40-pound backpack and climbing a ski tower.
Years of medical expenses are starting to add up too, especially with so many recent trips back and forth to the Mayo Clinic. Anderson said medical expenses are the no. 1 reason why families have to declare bankruptcy.
To help the Burrows, numerous benefits have been held to help ease the financial burden. A recent fundraiser held at Idaho Watersports in Burley raised almost $6,000.
A website was also launched to solicit donations. So far, almost $5,400 has been raised, but it is still short of the $15,000 goal. The website can be accessed at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-john-burrows-bounce-back/283239.
“He’s a sweet guy, and I don’t want this to claim his life,” Anderson said.