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‘I would just like my legs back’: Calgary police officer loses both legs after battle with influenza

Calgary police officer loses both legs after battle with influenza
WATCH: A Calgary police officer is still recovering after fighting a strain of the flu this winter that ultimately resulted in his legs being amputated. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, he never could have guessed how a case of the flu could have changed his life forever.

A Calgary police officer is recovering at Foothills Medical Centre after losing his legs in a battle with the flu.

All his life, Jason Bramham has been an active and healthy guy who loves the outdoors. But in February, he came down with the flu.

“I just felt like it was like a form of nausea but the worst feeling I’ve ever had. Dizziness, nausea and disoriented. I collapsed on the ground. I couldn’t hold myself up,” Bramham recalled.

Read more: 23 Albertans have died from the flu this season

Bramham was placed in a medically induced coma and underwent multiple heart surgeries. The H1N9 influenza was devastating to his liver and kidneys.

The 42-year-old said doctors told him it was his fitness level that spared his life.

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“The doctor said out of 100 people with this type of incident, 10 might survive this and those 10 are the ones who are in good shape who take the fitness seriously,” Bramham said.

“It’s just the flu but I guess we sometimes underestimate what a flu can do.”

‘A whole new lifestyle’

The loss of circulation in his lower limbs resulted in his legs being amputated below the knee in early May.

Read more: Flu deaths rise when a city gets a new pro sports team: study

“This is a whole new lifestyle I am going to have to get used to and it’s overwhelming, to be honest with you. I would just like my legs back but I know that’s not going to happen,” Bramham said.

Five months later, Bramham is still at the Foothills hospital. He’s being fitted for prosthetic legs now but he couldn’t have imagined the cost: $59,000 for his right leg alone, which is not fully covered by benefits.

“Sometimes I ask, ‘Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? What is life going to be like with this?’ I honestly still have a hard time accepting this,” Bramham said.

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Read more: Influenza rates at record low thanks to distancing during coronavirus, data suggests

It doesn’t take long, standing outside the hospital with Bramham, to see people come by and wish him well, including police officers and hospital staff who describe him as humble and supportive.

“He is just a trooper,” said Pamela Brake, who works at the Foothills Hospital.

“He is wonderful. The police department is so lucky to have somebody like that. Jason is an easygoing person with great charisma for someone who has been through so much. He is supportive of everybody around him and he’s the one who needs the support. He is a star.”

Read more: Calgary man who nearly died from flu urges others to get immunized

His friend, Const. Gavin Sather started an online fundraiser to help raise money for Bramham’s new legs.

Bramham dismisses the praise he has received from friends about being an inspiration.

“I don’t think I’m an inspiration. All I did was survive,” Bramham said.

“They are the inspiration because they are the ones actually doing something to help someone, and in some cases, [someone] who they don’t even know.”
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Read more: Cancelling flu vaccination clinics will strain health resources amid COVID-19, Vernon doctor says

The next step for Bramham is learning how to stand and walk again.

“There is always a time when you were sitting there looking at a picture of yourself from a year ago when you were healthy and on top of a mountain and that’s hard,” Bramham said.

“That’s really hard for me to do that because it takes me back to a time when I didn’t have this and when I was healthy, when I had my legs and I had the lifestyle that I loved and did the things I love to do.”

Read more: Coronavirus lockdowns might be delaying flu season in the southern hemisphere

He plans to push forward with physiotherapy, driven by the generosity of the people around him.

“I can either just sit here and sulk or I can move forward, so I choose to move forward,” Bramham said.

“People say, ‘Oh, this story is about you,’ but it isn’t about me. It’s about them. It’s about their generosity and it’s about people coming together and making a difference and accomplishing something.”

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