North Country veteran injured in Afghanistan prepares for life-changing surgery

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 6:46 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - A decorated North Country veteran is scheduled to have life-changing surgery next month in New York City. After a local group of athletes heard her story, they wanted to find a way to help with the heavy lifting.

As soon as you walk into North Country Cross Fit, you can hear the work participants put in, pushing mind and body to the limit. “It’s going to push you just as much mentally as it would physically,” said the gym’s Ian Passino.

It’s something retired Army Captain Bergan Flannigan knows all too well from her deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. “Our job was to help them create police stations, learn the different tactics of patrolling their communities, and implementing different regulations and rules,” Flannigan said.

After seven months there, her life changed forever. “Then the world just exploded,” she recalled. “Your ears just ring you and don’t feel anything... it ended up being an IED planted under a motorcycle.”

The injuries she sustained to her leg landed her a Purple Heart. “About 18 months out, I was finally done surgeries and could focus on actually getting used to a prosthetic and getting out there again,” Flannigan said.

But 11 years after returning from war, she still fights each day, the socket for her prosthetic is not as strong as she is. “The socket is like pulling on a pair of shoes that is two sizes too big or two sizes too small. It fits okay, but it’s not perfect,” she said.

There is a surgery that could help make day-to-day life more comfortable. Doctors drill a hole into the remaining femur and put a steel rod into it, letting the two fuse together. “Instead of using your socket, which is what you use for your hip motion, I will be using my skeletal bone again to walk,” Flannigan said.

She’s eligible for the surgery, but it comes at a cost that insurance won’t fully cover. “At the end of the day, I bet you I’m going to be at anywhere to 50 to 60-thousand,” Flannigan said. “I want to be able to do things again. I still do them, I push myself through them, but then I suffer.”

“I don’t think it’s something our veterans should have to go through,” said Marie Blatchley, who knows Flannigan through their children. “We got talking, I got to know her story. I always felt helpless.”

North Country Crossfit honors veterans with what are called Hero WODs, or “workouts of the day.” “Hero workouts are very challenging, they are very demanding and they are longer,” Passino said.

And Blatchley, a regular at the CrossFit gym, brought Flannigan’s story to her group. “I thought to myself, we have one of our local heroes who needs our help,” she said.

This Saturday, the group will test their limits, while honoring Flannigan by helping to pick up the tab for the surgery.

“I don’t know if you know how appreciated this is, because it means a lot,” Flannigan told the group.

So far, $1,400 has been raised. The community says they’re just trying to give back to someone that has already given so much. “She doesn’t have to thank us for it, it’s us thanking her for her service and her sacrifice,” Blatchley said.

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