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Former Burn Patient Powers Through Strongman Competitions, Becomes Firefighter

Former Shriners Children’s Ohio patient Steven wears his life on his skin.

There’s the ink from more than 14 tattoos and patches of dark and light beside raised lines, bumps and swirls. Every scar is like a map you can trace to the accident that changed his body forever.

When he was 14 years old he sustained second- and third-degree burns over most of his body after a gas leak triggered an explosion at his home in West Virginia.

He was eventually transferred to Shriners Children’s Ohio where he stayed for three months. He couldn’t sit, stand, eat or walk on his own.

“It was really frustrating sometimes,” he recalled. “I remembered how to walk, write, eat and lift things, but my body just wouldn’t cooperate.”

But Steven credits his family, the nurses, and his physical and occupational therapists for finding the right motivation: sports.

“I played football so we started small by tossing a ball or doing push-ups on my bed,” he said. “They knew playing sports was really important to me so it felt like we were accomplishing something together.”

Even after he was discharged from the hospital, it took several months before he was strong enough and understood how his body had changed to play high school football.

The skin grafts don’t sweat so Steven can’t monitor or regulate his body temperature in the same way.

“I have to take it slow and make sure I’m not overheating, and protect my skin from small cuts or tears,” he explained. A couple years after graduating high school, Steven was flipping through channels and came across a Strongman competition. He was hooked.

I’m not afraid of fire. It may have won round one with me when I was a kid, but I’ll win round two.

Steven has spent the last six years competing and succeeding in Strongman events. He placed second in West Virginia’s Strongman competition and earned the title of “Miami’s Baddest Man” in April 2021.

He can lift a 330-pound stone over his head and carry an 800-pound yoke 50 feet.

“Anyone who competes at this level really pushes their body to the limit,” Steven said. “I feel like I have something to prove. Just because I look different doesn’t mean anyone should underestimate what my body and mind are capable of.”

It is a lesson he’s hoping to teach his three children.

“I want my kids to be comfortable around people who look different, so I want them to ask questions about my accident,” he said. “They’ll be better prepared to go out in the world and expect that everyone is a little different.”

Although Steven plans to continue competing in Strongman events, he’s ready for a new physical and mental challenge: firefighting.

“There’s a lot of physical training but also learning how to think on my feet in an emergency and help people,” Steven said.

Plus, he says he has a score to settle.

“I’m not afraid of fire,” he said. “It may have won round one with me when I was a kid, but I’ll win round two.”

Former Burn Patient's Strength Shows in His Mind, Body and Heart

Steven has never let his injuries keep him from competing in sports and now becoming a firefighter.

steven working as a firefighter

Steven recently became a part-time firefighter.

steven waves to audience on stage

Steven waves to the audience while on stage with competitors in the World’s Strongest Firefighter.

Steven shaking hands with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Steven, a former Shriners Children’s burn patient and current firefighter, meets Arnold Schwarzenegger during the World’s Strongest Firefighter event, which is part of the Arnold Sports Festival.

steven giving thumbs up

Positive attitude has been key to Steven's successes in life.

steven competing_

Steven has spent the last six years competing and succeeding in Strongman events.

steven taking a photo with phone

Setting his sights on a new physical and mental challenge, Steven became a firefighter in 2023.

steven with his child

The father of three tries to use his journey to teach his children valuable lessons.

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