Fishers Firefighters, Brandon Anderson & Thomas Crafton, Overcome Life-changing Injuries & Inspire Others
Writer: Jon Shoulders
Photographer: Brian Brosmer
Brandon Anderson of the Fishers Fire Department chose the latter when tragedy occurred in his own life.
On August 12, 2016, Anderson set out on a motorcycle ride with a group of long-time friends for a weekend getaway at Lake Cumberland. Within 45 minutes of leaving home, he was involved in an accident with a pickup truck that landed him in a trauma center for a month and resulted in the amputation of his right leg above the knee.
“I’ve seen it on this side of the job for other people – you just never expect yourself to be on the other side of the coin,” says Anderson, who has served with the Fishers Fire Department for more than 16 years. “In the blink of an eye, I was on the other side of that coin. I was in need of help and that put me in a bad spot because I’m not the one to ask for help. I like to be on the other side and be able to help somebody else out.”
Nevertheless, Anderson received support from not only his wife and two sons but also firefighters at his own station and throughout the county, which has, in turn, inspired him to begin sharing his story with others in a similar position. After just 10 months of therapy and hard work, he resumed firefighting duties with a nine-pound prosthetic leg on June 26, 2017, passing all of the necessary physical strength and endurance tests for full duty.
To his knowledge, Anderson is the only above-the-leg amputee in the country to return to full duty as a firefighter.
“Whether it is to come back to this job or whatever kind of job you have, it’s about overcoming that obstacle in front of you,” he says. “My mentality is not to just lay down if there’s an obstacle. I may not get over it the first time, but I’m going to figure out a way to do it.”
Among those Anderson has inspired is fellow Fishers firefighter Thomas Crafton, who lost his leg at age eight in a farming accident. Crafton served as a paramedic after studying at IUPUI and considered firefighting upon learning Anderson’s story.
“I didn’t even know that you could be a firefighter and have a prosthetic leg,” Crafton says. “There had been a lot of coverage about Brandon in the news, which led me to look into things and find out that he’s not the only amputee that belongs in a fire department around the country. I saw hope there.”
Crafton began his firefighting career at Pike Township, eventually applying for a position within Hamilton County and completing the Fishers Fire Department’s grueling training process late last year.
“When I was going through the academy, Brandon talked me through it and got me in touch with his prosthetist, who was able to introduce new technology that enabled me to perform at a higher level physically,” Crafton says. “I shaved two minutes off of my mile-and-a-half runtime because of what Brandon introduced me to.”
As he approaches his one-year anniversary of returning to full duty in June, Anderson, an avid outdoorsman, has no plans to slow down, professionally or recreationally – he expects to spend family time this summer hiking with his wife and sons and getting back to what he calls “a little bit of normalcy.”
“I try to learn something new every day,” he says. “Nothing is ever just handed to you. It’s out there in front of you, and it’s up to you to make that choice to work hard and earn what’s out there.”
Crafton says that while technology certainly has aided in overcoming his many professional challenges, ultimately it’s his own courage and positive disposition – as well as inspiration from people like Anderson along the way – that has gotten him where he is today.
“Don’t let anyone set your limits – you’re the one in control,” Crafton says. “If you allow society to define who you are, then that’s what you become. With technology today, you’re able to perform just as well as the next person. Your mind can either be your chains or your wings.”