Firefighter Brandon Anderson is Helping Other Amputee Firefighters Around the World on the Road to Recovery
Since suffering an injury in 2016 that resulted in the amputation of his right leg above the knee, Brandon Anderson has not only returned to full-time work with the Fishers Fire Department, but he’s also helped other individuals and those with an amputee throughout the country and the world who have suffered similar injuries and became determined not to let those injuries prevent them from continuing their careers.
After Anderson, who has now been with the department for nearly 20 years, received some press for his achievement in returning to work after his injury, he found himself connecting with others around the world in similar situations.
“I don’t always have the right answer for everybody, but I can share what I went through and how I got to where I am today,” says Anderson, who returned to work in June of 2017 with a nine-pound prosthetic leg after 10 months of therapy. “I’m happy to share any resources — whether it’s how my leg was built and how we worked on that or the workouts that I did to prepare myself to be able to do my job today.”
Anderson connected with Michael Laughlin, a Canada-based firefighter, three years ago when Anderson was still working hard and looking eagerly forward to the day when he’d be on the clock again with the Fishers Fire Department.
“I was actually trying to find somebody who had been in my situation, and thought he had made it back to work — when I contacted him he hadn’t quite made it back yet,” says Anderson, who has been promoted to captain since returning to the department as a lieutenant in 2017. “As I pushed through and made it back to doing my job full time, he ran into some hiccups and I was able to share some things with him.”
During Anderson’s correspondence with Laughlin, he and his wife decided to meet up with Laughlin in person, and Anderson says the face-to-face connection benefitted both men.
“We really helped each other out after we were able to meet up,” Anderson says. “With all the connections I’ve made, it’s never only been about me helping them. It’s been about sharing with each other and taking pieces to learn myself. If I’m struggling, myself, with a technique or something like that, just talking to someone else might bring up something that they do a little differently, and ultimately makes me rethink how I do it.”
Laughlin has since made the jump back into full-duty work in his firefighting job and, according to Anderson, he became the first Canadian firefighter to work as an above-the-knee amputee in the process.
This spring, a firefighter based in Sweden named Christian, who had suffered a motorcycle injury that resulted in the amputation of his leg, reached out to Anderson to learn about his journey, during Christian’s own attempt to get back to work.
“Christian’s wife had become aware of my story of trying to come back and making it back to work and was looking for someone like him,” Anderson says. “She reached out to the department to get in contact with me. He and I have spoken several times now, and FaceTimed back and forth, like I’ve done for other folks around here.”
Anderson received word in late July that Christian’s efforts to resume his career as a firefighter have paid off.
“He sent me a text saying that he’s able to do a little bit of his job again,” Anderson says. “He’s working at about 50% capacity and doing some training with his other guys. He still has some hiccups that I’m trying to help him work through, but that was great to hear.”
Anderson adds that the Amputee Walking School, a nationwide organization run by Paralympic gold medalists Dennis Oehler and Todd Schaffhauser, provides free physical therapy sessions for any amputee who wishes to attend, and helped him during his own road to recovery and resumption of full-time firefighting work.
“For me, the Walking School was a huge help,” he says. “It also provides continuing education credits for therapists, so if you’re a physical therapist you can work in conjunction with them and also provide help for any amputee who needs it.”
Anderson says he’s willing to help any additional individuals who are in the situation he found himself in four years ago. He’s not entertained the idea of creating an official nonprofit organization or foundation but says he’ll always take the time to share his story and lessons learned with anyone who might be able to benefit.
“It’s not something that I’m actively promoting or anything like that, but I made the decision along with my family that this was something for us to share,” he says. “If it helps one other person along the way, it’s worth sharing what we’ve been through and what I’ve been through to get where I’m at today. After all, you can’t get through something like this alone.”