Wasmund family

Cassie and Jason Wasmund enjoyed a vacation in Estes Park last summer with their children. Jaxon, now 9, left, and Jaycee, now 7.

KEARNEY — When Jason Wasmund woke up weak and shivering Feb. 16, he assumed he had the flu, but within a day his temperature dipped to 96 degrees and then soared to 103.

“The second day, he couldn’t answer my questions,” said his wife, Cassie. Worried, she took him to the emergency room at Kearney Regional Medical Center. He was admitted right away. That night, he was moved to the intensive care unit.

He was diagnosed with sepsis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs.

“He went from super-healthy to the ICU by Monday night,” Cassie said.

By Thursday, unable to breathe on his own, Wasmund was flown to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The next day, doctors amputated his leg to save his life. He had only a 7 percent chance of survival, but he beat the odds.

Friends and Cub Scout Pack 135 are hosting a benefit for the family, including a spaghetti dinner and silent auction, at St. James Church Thursday night. Admission is by donation. Proceeds will pay for his medical expenses and costs to modify their home.

Wasmund, 43, the manager of Tradehome Shoes at Hilltop Mall, came home March 22. He is using a wheelchair, a walker and crutches and allowing his body to heal while spending time with children Jaxon, 9, and Jaycee, 7.

He and Cassie slowly are grasping the grim reality of the last two months.

The morning Cassie learned that Jason’s leg had to come off to save his life, she began to scream.

“I was screaming at the doctor, ‘you can’t take his leg,’ but I didn’t know the severity of it. They had already taken him in when they called me,” she said.

Cassie was in Omaha. Her mother, Pattie Paradise, was visiting from Chillicothe, Mo., when Wasmund became ill. She stayed to watch the children as Cassie stayed in Omaha.

The first 24 to 48 hours after the amputation were critical. Doctors operated again to be sure they had removed the entire infection.

It took Wasmund eight days to awaken after the amputation and two more days to fully gain consciousness.

“People who come out of that delirium can be a bit confused. I kept thinking we were flying to Florida, but I couldn’t figure out why we weren’t taking off,” he said.

He was not told his leg had been amputated. “I’d look down and see a leg. My brain still thought it was there,” he said.

Wasmund did not realize it was missing until a few days after regaining consicousness. As he did physical therapy, he fell backward and expected to use his leg to stop himself but the leg was gone. “I stopped for a second, looked at the therapist and knew I didn’t have it. I was scared. That was tough,” he said.

Back in his room, when Cassie came in, he turned to her and said, simply, “It’s gone.”

With tears in her eyes, she told him what happened. “I told him it was necessary to save his life so he could watch his kids grow up,” she said.

Two weeks later, he was moved to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Omaha. He learned how to get around the house, how to use the bathroom and how to maneuver on crutches and his wheelchair. They had him make a peanut butter sandwich, climb steps and more. “After three days, they allowed me free reign of the place, but a physical therapist was shocked when I stood up and made it to the door with a walker,” he said.

Since coming home, he has been working out at the Wellness/Fitness Center at CHI Health Good Samaritan to strengthen his upper body. He has lost 50 pounds.

Before he became ill, he enjoyed hiking and cycling. He coached Jaxon in basketball and football and is active with Jaxon’s Cub Scout troop.

The cause of the infection remains a mystery. Doctors said bacteria could have lingered in his body from a tiny scrape or a wound or an old injury.

“He’s healing well. We just have to take our time,” said Cassie, a substitute paraprofessional for the Kearney Public Schools. In four to six months, if healing continues at its current rate, he expects to be fitted with a prosthesis.

“Normally, I don’t sit down,” he said. “I’d wake up, eat, work 12 hours a day, go to the gym or take a bike ride with the family, but now I’ve been sitting.”

He’s itching to get moving, but he understands the need to heal slowly and carefully.

“I’m happy I’m not dead, but I have to retrain my brain to see that my leg isn’t there,” he said. “I was angry, but I’m trying to remain positive and think of the things I have, not the things that are gone.”

His grateful wife added, “He’s lucky to be here.”