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Young Phoenix Man Critically Injured in Plane Crash Making Remarkable Recovery, Walks Again at Barrow

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PHOENIX, Ariz. (March 19, 2019) – A 20-year-old Phoenix man is making an amazing recovery and is walking again after sustaining critical injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, from a plane crash that occurred in 2017. After months of neuro rehabilitation at Barrow Neurological Institute, Brody Burnell recently began walking and even recently returned to golfing as part of his physical therapy. 

Burnell, who was in a coma for more than 3 months after the crash, has made news headlines throughout his long journey of recovery. Burnell received intensive medical care at a number of hospitals for more than one year to help him learn to talk again and heal from the devastating injuries he sustained when the plane he was piloting crashed enroute to Sedona. 

In addition to his many injuries, Burnell sustained a condition called heterotopic ossification, which was caused by his traumatic brain injury and left him unable to walk. Heterotopic ossification is the presence of bone in soft tissue where bone normally does not exist and can form when a traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury occurs. 

After many surgeries and months of outpatient neuro-rehabilitative therapy at Barrow, Burnell is no longer wheelchair bound is walking with a cane and walker. 

“I’m so happy to be out of the wheelchair,” says Burnell. “My goal is to walk without the walker and cane by my 21st birthday in September,” says Burnell. 

Although Burnell will continue to undergo treatment at Barrow for his traumatic brain injury, his recovery has amazed his physicians.

“Brody still has a long journey and hard work ahead of him, but based on all of the critical injuries he sustained, his recovery has thus far been amazing,” says his doctor Christina Kwasnica, MD, medical director of the Neuro-Rehabilitation Center at Barrow Neurological Institute

Burnell’s parents have been by their son’s side supporting him throughout his medical treatment and refused to give up hope.

“We were confident we would get our boy back,” says Burnell’s father Steve. “We knew it would be a long haul but we never have had a doubt that Brody wouldn’t make continuous progress throughout his recovery. And, since we’ve been at Barrow, his progress has been a continued success.”

Burnell is grateful for his family, community and prayer support he has received and hopes his story will inspire and give others hope.

“I want to tell people to be strong,” says Burnell. “Hard work, positivity and support helps to overcome adversity.”


About Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center
Located in the heart of Phoenix, Ariz., St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center is a 586-bed, not-for-profit hospital that provides a wide range of health, social and support services with special advocacy for the poor and underserved. St. Joseph’s is a nationally recognized center for quality tertiary care, medical education and research. It includes the internationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center and Norton Thoracic Institute.  U.S. News & World Report routinely ranks St. Joseph’s among the best hospitals in the United States for neurology and neurosurgery.  For more information please visit our website at


Publish date: 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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Carmelle Malkovich, External Communications Director

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