Young Man with Disability Surprises Himself and His Family with How Having a Job Has Changed His Life

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In honor of American Heart Month, Vocational Rehabilitation shares the story of a young man who went through three open-heart surgeries in his short life and still found his first job.

Shawn Burrows pulls supplies at Wuesthoff Hospital in Rockledge, FL

Shawn Burrows pulls supplies at Wuesthoff Hospital in Rockledge, FL

I had to go through all of these steps to try and get a job, and VR helped me with every single one

When Shawn Burrows heads to work each day, he does it without complaint – in fact, a smile stretches across his face as he enters Wuesthoff Hospital in Rockledge. For Shawn, who has had three open-heart surgeries due to a pulmonary valve disorder, having a job has changed his life. His condition must be monitored and requires multiple medications, but that doesn’t stop him from excelling as a materials management technician at Wuesthoff.

Shawn got the job with the help of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep jobs. He first came to VR as a senior in high school, unsure of what he wanted to do after graduation. VR Counselor Lynda Schuchert met with him and went over his options. Shawn decided he wanted to work, so Lynda suggested a volunteer position at Wuesthoff Hospital.

Though he was hesitant to work at a hospital after spending so much time in operating rooms for his surgeries, he agreed to start volunteering at Wuesthoff because it was a special place for him. “My grandmother worked there as a manager in the dietary department, so I wanted it to be a family thing,” Shawn explains.

He spent time working in the materials management department, which supplies necessary items to employees throughout the hospital. “It’s like a store,” Shawn says. “Hospital workers send us requests for items, and we fill the orders. We also stock the shelves and keep the store clean.”

Shawn quickly found that he liked the work. His supervisor noticed his exceptional performance and offered him a part-time position. After a few months working part-time, Shawn’s hours have increased to almost 40 hours a week. His hours are flexible, in case he has any medial issues, but so far, he’s still going strong. He now makes enough money to cover the cost of his own health insurance and to pay the rent for his own apartment.

Shawn has surprised himself and his parents with how well he is doing in his new job. “His boss says he’s just a god send, they love having him here,” says Lynda. “They’re trusting him more, and he’s responsible for doing more things on the job.”

“The last six months, he’s been more outgoing,” shares Lynda. “He was living with his dad and now he lives with a friend, and he got his driver’s license so he’s driving himself to work. It’s really cool that he came in not knowing what he wanted to do, and now he’s just doing it.”

Shawn is having so much fun working at the hospital that it’s tough for him to pick his favorite part of the job. “Honestly, all of it,” he says. He also plans to stay in his job for the long term. He is grateful for his job and for those who have helped him along the way. “I had to go through all of these steps to try and get a job, and VR helped me with every single one,” he says.

In the future, Shawn plans to go to college to become a doctor or nurse. This is the same young man who didn’t know if he could work at all because of his disability, who is making plans for a future that includes a career in his now chosen field.

About Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. The employer-focused website, https://abilitieswork.employflorida.com/, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 90 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,194 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.

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Rachel Smith
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Florida Vocational Rehabilitation
since: 11/2012
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