By Staff

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – After three days of repeated power outages at his aunt’s Dallas home during February’s arctic storm, Steven Brown noticed something was very wrong with his legs.

Steven Brown’s legs were partially amputated after he suffered from frostbite during the historic February winter storm. (credit: Texas Health Resources)

“My feet had swelled up on me,” he recalled. “I couldn’t walk normal. My ankles locked up to the point where I couldn’t bend my knees or stand up no more.”

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A relative took the 23-year-old to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where Brown learned he had suffered frostbite to his legs and had a blood infection. After three days of hospitalization, he was presented with two choices – either a long, complicated recovery filled with many uncertainties or amputation.

“Either I had an option that I could keep [my legs] and deal with whatever comes with it or the second option was I had to get both of my limbs amputated so I chose that one,” Brown said. “Other people would probably be like, dang, I lost my legs. They’d probably have a hard time coping and dealing with it. … But I can deal with it. It’s just a different way of living.”

Unable to return to his aunt’s home because of the living conditions and with no place else to go, Brown was referred and admitted into Health to Home, a collaborative medical respite program involving Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas; Austin Street Center, a Dallas homeless shelter; and CitySquare, a nonprofit housing and social support provider.

Funded entirely through donations to the Texas Health Resources Foundation, the 24-month pilot program provides qualifying homeless or imminently homeless men like Brown short-term residential care to recover in a safe environment. Clients of the program have access to medical care and other social support services, including substance abuse treatment resources and help finding them permanent housing.

“We want to expand to outlying communities, other hospital settings, because there is such a need,” said Jennifer Hay, M.S.N., R.N., director of the respite program and Texas Health Dallas Emergency Department.

Those who qualify are housed in a nine-bed unit located within the Austin Street Center, where they receive health and psychological assessments, on-site care by a Texas Health nurse and medical assistant, weekly visits by a Texas Health physician, and medical support and education.

“A lot of these gentlemen have chronic medical conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure and things of that nature that they have to take medications for the rest of their life. We’ve even had patients who have cancer in our respite program,” Hay said. “This is something you cannot manage on the streets and this could end someone’s life without care. We provide that extra support so that they can basically better manage their healthcare and live a healthier lifestyle.”

Faviola Carroll, an on-site Austin Street social worker, helps clients replace missing identification records like birth certificates and social security cards and obtain “a lot of the basic needs they haven’t had in years” like Social Security benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, glasses or dentures.

Another case manager works to get clients back home or, when that is not possible, helps them apply for housing through CitySquare.

Brown faced being sent to other homeless shelters in Dallas once he was discharged from the hospital in March.

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“Luckily, this was an option,” he said. “This was the best option that was available.”

The youngest client who has gone through the program, Brown turned 24 while staying at the shelter. He maintained an upbeat outlook about his future that staff say was contagious.

“He’s very positive. Despite all of the downfalls that he’s experienced, he still has a smile on his face,” Carroll said. “It’s great to have that positivity kind of transfer to our other clients. He brings that positivity every day.”

Steven Brown’s legs were partially amputated after he suffered from frostbite during the historic February winter storm. (credit: Texas Health Resources)

As a client of the program, Brown was provided with his prescription medications, a wheelchair, a walker, clothing, meals and laundry. He also obtained health and prescription medication insurance, a primary care provider, and a copy of his birth certificate, and received job assistance and resources to complete his general educational development (GED) test.

The program also covered Brown’s transportation to an amputation support group and appointments, including a recent appointment at the Hanger Clinic in Dallas, where Brown was fitted with prosthetic legs, thanks to the help of another nonprofit organization, Limbs for Life.

There, Brown learned the various steps in putting on and removing his prosthetic legs. With the support of parallel bars, he also took his first steps on his new legs.

He said he’s confident it’s just a matter of time before he can walk unassisted on his new legs and has set a goal to eventually drive again.

Brown recently moved into housing through CitySquare and is grateful that Health to Home set him up with the resources and support he needs to be able to make it on his own.

Without it, he said, “I wouldn’t be at the point where I am today.”

Since accepting their first client in October, the program has helped 24 men.

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(Originally Posted 6/29/2021) Staff