Action County: Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson’s life was abruptly changed forever because of a waterfall in Hawaii.What began for the Frisco local as an innocuous play day with friends amidst the flowing waters near Oahu’s north shore, ultimately became a remarkable test of his courage. It was Feb. 22, 2004, and after several days of rain, a waterfall behind the house where Anderson and his now-wife, Brittany, were living, started flowing.”We decided to check it out,” Anderson recalled. “There was nine of us. We climbed up this (fixed line) rope; it was like a stair-stepping waterfall. Nine climbed up and six climbed down. I went seventh and was about halfway down a length of 30 feet when the rope broke. I was only wearing Chacos and I landed flat on my feet. It was kind of unreal.”
Anderson, who said the initial impact happened so fast it was actually painless due to extensive nerve loss, soon discovered that his tibia and fibula bones were protruding several inches through the skin near his inner left ankle bone.Luckily for the Denver native, he was quickly surrounded by his friends, all of whom were Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified – a prerequisite for their jobs as YMCA outdoor educators.The impromptu search and rescue team stabilized Anderson for 3 1/2 hours before the rain subsided enough for a helicopter to gain access to the scene and finally evacuate Anderson from the wet wilderness. A trip to the local hospital brought the Western State graduate to the most painful moment of his life: the relocation process.
“It took 10 people,” he said. “Nine of them held me down. The Doctor put his foot on the end of the bed and pulled with all of his might to get it relocated.”After undergoing the type of excruciating process commonly reserved for textbooks and WFR what-ifs, Anderson met with complications. At some point during his fateful day, a fresh water organism entered Anderson’s body and ultimately imbedded itself in his bones, causing a painful and problematic infection that very nearly resulted in a leg amputation.Thanks to six operations, a positive attitude and perhaps a bit of luck, Anderson is alive and well. What’s more, he’s living an active lifestyle that includes skiing, rafting, biking and climbing. “I have what’s considered a partial ankle fusion,” explained Anderson, whose left foot and leg are locked in a 90-degree position. “I’ve been getting around fine. It hasn’t stopped me from doing anything, really. I’m not such a great runner because I have no ankle, but other than that …
Anderson credits his discovery of Dale Boot USA, which custom made his alpine ski boot, for allowing him to get back to one of his longtime passions.Before hitting Copper’s slopes on Friday, Anderson offered a pearl of wisdom to his fellow outdoor adventurers. “I just want people to learn to be a little bit safer and try to pay attention to their surroundings,” he said. “But I also want to encourage people that whatever happens can be overcome. Do whatever you want. (A disability) doesn’t necessarily have to slow you down or stop you.”
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