The fight of his life
One day before Thanksgiving, doctors looked Cassie Finwall in the eye and told her that her father was brain dead.
Scott Burr of Hastings had suffered a heart attack and despite heroic rescue efforts, the damage was too severe.
That Wednesday night, Burr's relatives gathered in a chapel at United Hospital and said their goodbyes to him.
The next day, he woke up and said, "Hi."
Since then, Burr's four children, his ex-wife and numerous family members have been on a rollercoaster ride. Good news one day. Bad news the next.
The bad: Sixteen times on the day of the heart attack, his heart was shocked back into beating.
The good: He flirted with a new female nurse by saying, "What's your name? I haven't seen you before."
The bad: Two times, Burr has been given his last rites.
The good: Just when you think the guy is down and out, he comes right back.
Then came Tuesday morning. He had another heart attack. Family members were urged to get to United Hospital as quickly as possible.
It was another chapter in a book that's already far too long.
"Some doctors are saying it's a miracle he even has any brain function left," said Cassie Finwall, Scott's daughter.
On Monday, Scott, 46, was put back on a ventilator. He had developed pneumonia. His kidneys weren't functioning well. And he had a fever.
All these symptoms mean doctors are hesitant to give him the pacemaker and the quadruple bypass surgery he needs.
"It's been (a) very long (two weeks)," said Julie Morgan, Scott's sister. "But it's not as bad for us as it has been for Scott."
In July, a hailstorm tore through portions of Eagan, including the home of Steve and Debi Andrea on Thomas Lane. They needed a new roof, new siding and work on their windows.
Enter Girtz Construction and Scott Burr.
Projects at the Andrea home began in August, and over the past couple of months, they got to know Scott.
"We got to know him a little bit," Debi said. "He'd tell us about his boys. He's a very nice man."
At around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 25, Scott was working in the Andreas backyard. His cousin, Jake Burr, and co-worker Billy King were all on the job site with him.
It was Jake that first noticed a problem. He saw Scott on his side and asked him if he was OK. He didn't get a response, and went to investigate. He urged King to alert Steve Andrea and to call 911. Andrea grabbed a cordless phone and, while rushing outside, dialed 911.
Scott was breathing, but the breaths were getting farther and farther apart. Eventually, he stopped breathing altogether. That's when the 911 operator urged Jake Burr and Andrea to begin CPR. Andrea stayed on the phone with the operator and coached Jake through the procedure.
King ran into the front yard and directed the emergency personnel into the back yard.
The first officers arrived on the scene in just minutes, and when they arrived, they took over the rescue efforts. Scott was soon loaded into an ambulance and transported to United Hospital.
In the back yard, Jake, Ryan and Steve were soon joined by Jude Girtz, who owns Girtz Construction. Jake was praised for his quick actions.
"He sure did what it took," Steve said.
"Our entire family knows that any chance for survival that Scott has is because of what Jake did," Julie Morgan said. "We think he's just great. We love him for what he did. We wouldn't be where we are if Jake wouldn't have done what he did."
Scott got to United, and doctors worked on him until about 10:30 p.m. that night.
It was the next day he was pronounced brain dead.
So there were his daughter, Cassie, and his ex-wife, Terry Anderson, standing on each side of him in his hospital bed on Thanksgiving.
"Scott, I'm right here," Terry said to him, not expecting a response.
Scott turned and looked at her.
Cassie figured she'd try the same thing.
And he turned to look at her.
"My god. Did he just do that?" Cassie wondered.
"From what we were told, we didn't think that was possible," she said.
Eventually that day, Scott was shaking hands and telling everyone, "Hi."
He recognized everyone who came in the door. He didn't know exactly how he ended up in the hospital, but family members were elated.
He was moved out of intensive care and into a private room.
Then things went south. The breathing tube was put back in, and he was again sedated. The tube came out last week, then was reinserted Monday.
"We've got a large family," Julie Morgan said. "We've been up at the hospital around the clock since that Tuesday. It's very difficult. It's very draining on the family."
Scott's four children are 28-year-old Cassie, 24-year-old Ashley, 11-year-old Brooks and 10-year-old Blake.
He has one grandchild, Lauren, and his second grandchild is on the way. Cassie is due in May.
Scott enjoys demolition derbys, working with cars and motocross. He has a large group of friends who have the same interests, and they're all eager to see their friend get better.
"I don't think he's ever met a person who doesn't like him," Cassie said. "If he has any enemies, I don't know about them.
"He is always willing to help people when needed. He doesn't really think of himself."
As for the Andreas, they have been able to stay informed about Scott's condition through the Caring Bridge Web site. Their Thanksgiving was certainly altered by what happened in their back yard.
"It was horrible, thinking about what their family was going through," Debi Andrea said. "It sounds like he has a lot of people pulling for him. We sure have been praying for him."
To visit his Caring Bridge Web site, go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/scottburr.
Scott Burr does not have medical insurance.
Family and friends have organized a benefit for him. It will be from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Eagles Club in Hastings. There will be a spaghetti dinner, a silent auction and a bake sale. Donations will be accepted.
An account has also been set up at Provincial Bank in Hastings.