All the Little Things: Brian Krabbenbos’s Story

Asked to do a relatively simple favour one clear May afternoon in 2018, Brian Krabbenbos headed over to his mother-in-law’s house to fix the flagpole on her front lawn.

Brian–a former butcher from Windsor ON, and father of five with nine grandchildren—noticed the pulley at the top of the flagpole was broken. So, naturally, he brought out a 24-foot extension ladder.

“I got all the way to the top, ready to fix it, then the entire pole started moving,” Brian recounts. “The pole came right out of the cement and down I went toward the road.”

Not wanting to fall head first onto the asphalt below, Brian pushed backwards off the ladder, tossing himself onto the front lawn from 20 feet up. There was a snap and a searing pain in his leg. Having served as a volunteer firefighter for two decades, Brian knew right away he had suffered an open compound fracture to his right lower leg.

Brian waited 12 hours for surgery at his local hospital in shock and could barely manage the pain, even with morphine. When Brian’s incision became infected after surgery, his doctor referred him to London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), where orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. David Sanders, would re-do the initial procedure, and plastic surgeon, Dr. Tanya DeLyzer, would later perform a 12-hour free flap surgery.

“The medical team at LHSC was fantastic,” says Brian. “It sounds funny to say, but I looked forward to seeing the nurses and doctors every day. It honestly felt like home.”

Over the next three years, Brian endured several surgeries to help alleviate his pain, including a bone graft and an ankle fusion. And while his situation did improve at first, sharp leg pains came back in full force a few months after his ankle fusion.

“I couldn’t take it any longer. I called Dr. Sanders and suggested an amputation,” a potential outcome of which Brian had been aware. At 62 years old, he felt learning to live with a prosthetic leg would be preferable to undergoing further surgeries.

Brian reminisces on how well Dr. Sanders handled his decision to move forward with an amputation.

“Everything he did, from the minute I got there four years ago until today, has been nothing but positive.”

In November 2021, Brian had his amputation surgery and went through Parkwood Institute’s rehabilitation program to receive his prosthetic leg. Today, well on the road to recovery, Brian notes how it was all the little things that mattered most to him.

From the emails detailing his way through the hospital, to the maintenance workers, intake staff, and of course, the doctors and nurses, Brian felt his health and comfort were always top priority.

“It was like family,” he says. “Believe it or not, I looked forward to my appointments. Most people dread it, but for me, it was the opposite because I knew something good was going to come out of it.”

Feeling more confident with his prosthetic leg each day, Brian credits his recovery–and his peace of mind–to LHSC staff, the team at Parkwood, and everyone he encountered along the way.

“You can tell how vital everybody’s role is at the hospital. To me, it made all the difference.”