Benefit to show support for Velpen native


Brian Arensman with his wife, Shanon, and daughter, Alysa.

Doctors are unsure how Brian Arensman contracted the flesh-eating bacteria that took both his legs, but now his family in Velpen is looking to anything to brighten his days and ease his burden.

Arensman, 44, contracted necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection that destroys tissue under the skin, in his left leg last June. The disease is rare in the U.S., according to the Mayo Clinic, with less than 20,000 cases per year.

When doctors performed surgery to remove part of the Jasper native’s disease-ridden left leg last June, he suffered three cardiac arrests. Doctors stabilized him and to keep him alive, they tripled his blood pressure medication.

Doctors finished removing his left leg below the knee in surgery the next day. Within three weeks of the surgery, they realized the medication had turned his fingers and toes on his right foot black. Brian again had surgery last July to remove the right leg because of dry gangrene, a condition that occurs when body tissue dies.

“I woke up one night and the bottom of my right leg was hurting and they were crossed, so I uncrossed them and went back to sleep,” Brian said. “It got progressively worse the next day.”

Brian, a Pike County native, worked as a field service representative for Filtec, a company that inspects food and beverage production machines. It is unlikely that he will return to this line of work due to the mobility and travel involved with the job.

He received his first disability check in April, but has struggled to keep up with expenses. The check is only a third of what he was making at his job.

Brian now has prosthetics on both legs and is at a rehab center learning how to walk after being in the hospital for three months.

He said he walks about 200 feet a day and rehabs five days a week for an hour and a half.

“He’s starting to come around a bit more, but he’s still pretty depressed about losing his legs and worried about if he is ever going to be able to walk again,” said Brian’s father, Bob Fischer of Velpen.

Brian currently lives in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Shanon, and their 8-year-old daughter, Alysa. He moved from Velpen to Pennsylvania in 2001 after meeting his wife online.

Brian’s family in Velpen is hosting a benefit from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Moose Lodge #1175 in Jasper to raise money to buy any equipment he needs, which includes a power chair that can cost upwards of $10,000. They also hope to eventually get him a handicapped-accessible vehicle.

The benefit will include barbecue pulled pork dinners for sale, a silent auction, a bake sale and a DJ for entertainment.

Barb Fischer, Brian’s mother, has already received donations from many local companies since she began collecting them three months ago.

“Some of these people have really been generous,” Barb said. “Pretty much everyone that I have talked to has given me something.”

Brian will be in Velpen Friday through Sunday. He tries to visit Indiana once every three months, but the drive from Pennsylvania is hard on him.

“The hardest part is getting around everywhere,” he said. “Anywhere I go, it’s just difficult to get there.”

Barb said she gives the benefit fliers to anybody who goes through her line at Home Depot, where she works as a cashier, and is expecting a lot of people to attend.

“Brian is in a pretty depressed state of mind,” she said. “It has taken him time to come around. I want him to know that the people in Indiana care about him and that’s why I wanted to throw the benefit.”

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