When Doctors Say No, Find a New Doctor


Posted by Emily Shearing

Renee Burnett never took no for an answer. When her husband’s doctors and therapists told him he’d never walk again after his stroke, she recruited another team of medical professionals.

Two and a half years later, Harold Burnett, 44, walks without a cane. “I see more and more improvement in him every day,” Renee Burnett says. “They say whatever you get back in a year after the stroke, that’s it, but that is so false.”

Impervious to Pessimism

In the weeks after his stroke, Harold Burnett gained back some of the movement in his left leg, thanks to a physical therapist, who also taught Renee Burnett how to stretch and manipulate her husband’s leg at home to improve his mobility. A month later, the neurologist told Burnett he was amazed by his recovery.

But six months after daily physical therapy and major advancements in his leg, there was little improvement in his left arm. One occupational therapist even told Burnett after a visit that continuing therapy on his left arm “was a waste of time.” Renee Burnett saw the therapist’s snub as a blessing in disguise. “I’m such a stubborn person that I tried to prove her wrong,” she says.

Expanding the Care Corridor

The couple from New Jersey traveled to Philadelphia to seek out a new team of specialists for Harold Burnett’s care. Doctors assured the Burnetts they could have him walking normally again, and in a year they could shift the focus of recovery onto his arm.

With the help of Botox, Burnett is resuming normal functions in his left arm. “He can raise his arm, grasp objects, move his arm out to the side, and he is actually trying to go back to work,” Renee Burnett says. “And this is the man they said would never get out of a wheelchair.”

That’s proof, Burnett says, that the minute you hear anything is impossible from a doctor or therapist, move on. “That [therapist] did all they could for you and now it’s time to find someone else to help you get further along,” she says. “Don’t ever listen to the word no. If we would’ve listened to the first doctor, the first therapist just saying we should be grateful he’s alive, my husband wouldn’t be walking.”

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