Who We Are: Accident serves as inspiration for Frisco couple
When talking about the photo, Brian Anderson just laughs. “It’s just a little different to look at,” he said.Surrounded by a handful of close friends and his wife-to-be halfway down the rocky side of a Hawaiian waterfall, Anderson is smiling ear-to-ear in the photo. Everyone else? Well, not so much.What the picture doesn’t show is Anderson’s ankle – or at least what was left of it.Anderson had just fallen 15 feet from a ledge along the waterfall after the support rope snapped while he descended. He fell directly onto his feet, causing an open pilon fracture in his ankle or, as Anderson describes it, “separating his ankle from his leg.”His fibula was jutting out of the wound, and his foot was only attached to his leg by skin.The photo was taken after his group of friends – all of which were Wilderness First Responder certified – laid him down on the ground, stopped the bleeding and radioed for a helicopter.They had a while to wait, a little more than three hours, and decided to snap the picture.Anderson was in shock. Everyone else in the photo was just plain shocked.As Anderson, 28, talks about the photo six years later at his Frisco home, it’s not in reference to the accident that eventually led to the loss of his ankle joint but rather to what it ended up inspiring both him and his wife, Brittany, to do with their lives.
The recovery was long, especially after the second set of procedures that cut 2 inches from Anderson’s fibula and a quarter inch from his tibia. It left Anderson without an ankle, replaced by a makeshift fixed joint between his leg and foot.During the rehab time, Anderson said he had a lot of time to think – and come up with “crazy ideas” for what he wanted to do next.He learned to sail, among other activities, but was still left with feeling lost about what to do professionally.Anderson and his wife had both been outdoor recreation majors at Western State College, and it was the love for the outdoors that originally brought them together as teenagers in Denver.Now, with the experience of Anderson’s injury and rehabilitation, the two decided to combine that knowledge with their passion.The result was Footprints Adventures, a program for teens and young adults with limb differences and limb loss. The idea is to empower these young people through outdoor activity, whether it’s hiking, camping, climbing, etc., helping them increase their “self-image, self-confidence and overall self-concept,” Anderson said.The couple, who run the organization out of their home, will take their first group on a 10-day trip through Colorado this summer. They’ll raft on the Arkansas River, rock climb in Taylor Canyon and go on an overnight backpack hike.”We want to try to show everything amazing we can in Colorado in just 10 days,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to do it in that short of time, but that’s what we’re doing.”And they can’t wait.”We’re super excited,” Brittany said of the trip. “Since his injury, Brian has been able to get back to doing all those things that he loves doing. And one of the major things we’re excited about is to make other people feel that kind of empowerment.”
Brittany was with Anderson during the fall, and she was with him through every day of his recovery. After his initial surgeries in Hawaii and the next six operations after the ankle became infected, Brittany was always by his side.”I was pretty much on auto pilot for the whole year,” she said. “I was pretty much just playing nurse. There were things that needed to get done to help him recover, and that’s what I was focused on.”Brittany was also the one that encouraged Anderson to seek a second opinion after his leg became infected, and his original doctor didn’t see the need for exploratory surgery.Finding a doctor that would do the procedure ultimately saved Anderson’s entire leg from amputation.Anderson can’t fully express how much it meant to have Brittany’s support through it all.”It was the most important thing,” he said. “Sure, your family knows you pretty well, but she knows me better than anyone else. She was always there for me. We were in it together.”
Really, in the 12 years since the couple started dating as juniors in high school, there hasn’t been much they haven’t done together.After both Anderson and Brittany graduated from Western, they moved to Hawaii. They moved back to their native Colorado after Anderson’s accident and came up to Summit County about four years ago after getting married.They started Footprints Adventures last year – after Brittany picked up a masters degree in adventure education and adaptive sports management.Though running a business on their own has its challenges, they know that they’ve already learned quite a lot about overcoming adversity. Now, the goal is to help others learn to do the same.”When me and Brittany went through all of this, we had a hard time finding a lot of resources to help us,” Anderson said. “That’s what we want to be for others, we want to be that resource.”The two are hoping to expand Footprints’ next trip to an international level.”Just because you have limb loss doesn’t mean you can’t surf in Costa Rica,” Anderson said.Looking at that photo again, Anderson is reminded that losing his ankle that day in Hawaii wasn’t the end of anything but instead a beginning.”That’s the whole idea,” he said. “We want to show people that just because you have limb loss or limb difference doesn’t mean you can’t do all the things you want to.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User