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Vancouver firefighter in rehab at home after losing leg to flesh-eating infection overseas


A family trip took a frightening turn for Christopher Won when he was diagnosed with flesh-eating disease while in Hong Kong and now, after weeks of treatment overseas, the Vancouver firefighter is back home recovering.

Won told CTV Morning Live Friday that it's a relief to be back in the Lower Mainland, surrounded by friends and family.

"I'm feeling, physically, much better than I did when I was in hospital, but there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of my recovery," he said.

Won began feeling symptoms on the way to the Singapore airport as his family was flying back to Hong Kong. Won said his foot felt a little sore when he put weight on it that morning.

"I didn't think much of it. We had done a lot of walking on our holiday," he said, adding the pain got increasingly worse, to the point where he couldn't put any weight on his foot. "At that point I realized there was something far more serious than I could handle on my own."

Won was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection commonly known as flesh-eating disease, which forced the amputation of his leg above the knee on Feb. 15.

Won's partner, Marie Hui, said she'd never heard of the disease before.

"I had to actually look it up. So of course after I looked it up, it was quite a serious and critical illness and we didn't know if we were going to lose his leg, or lose his life," she told CTV Morning Live. "So it was really scary for not just us, but of course we've got two young kids and our whole family and our community back home were really scared."

Won said his community at home, including the fire department, has really come together to support his family.

"We always come together under conditions of adversity, we face adversity together," Won said of his colleagues. "When I was in hospital there was a constant wave of text messages and emails and people leaving messages."

Won said while he was in Hong Kong, a local firefighter who grew up in Vancouver took time during his days off to visit the couple in hospital.

Looking ahead, Won's recovery will continue with rehab and, eventually, a prosthesis.

"We'll try as hard as possible to rehab with the prosthesis and get him back doing everything that he loves to do, motorcycling, cycling, snowboarding, resuming jiu-jitsu, you know all the things we used to do and even just running around the park with our children, we can't wait for that," Hui said.

But Won stressed there's much more to his recovery beyond physical rehabilitation.

"I don't think I've mentally or emotionally really processed this entire experience, even though it's been over two months since the surgery. All of my doctors, all of the people I've talked to in terms of mental health support say it's very, very early in the process and so there's a lot to do there," he said.

"My intention is to hopefully get to the point where I'm able to go back to work full time and … just be active and healthy with our family and do the things we always did before."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Keri Adams Top Stories

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