Vancouver firefighter recovering abroad after losing leg to 'flesh-eating' infection

VANCOUVER — An assistant fire chief with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services is recovering in a Hong Kong hospital after contracting an infection commonly known as flesh-eating disease, forcing the amputation of part of his leg during a family vacation.

Marie Hui says her partner Christopher Won is "lucky to be alive, and very grateful for another day" after the bout with necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacterial infection that can start with a seemingly benign scrape, cut or even a bug bite.

In an email, she says the family can't recall Won having any such wounds or bites, but the infection forced the amputation of his leg above the knee on Feb. 15.

Hui says the family suspects the trouble began in Singapore, as Won started feeling symptoms on the way to the airport to fly back to Hong Kong.

She says the couple and their two children will face a challenging road to recovery, but they are "optimistic" with the support of their family and community.Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is among the well-wishers, saying in an emailed statement that he's been in touch with the family personally.

Hui shared a photo on Instagram late last week showing Won sitting up in a hospital bed with a bouquet of flowers sent by Sim and city councillors.

The mayor says Won's dedication to the fire department is "commendable" and it's "saddening" to hear about his medical emergency abroad.

A statement from Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry, meanwhile, says the department is grateful for the outpouring of support for Won, "one of the strongest, most resilient and committed people we know."

Hui also shared a message from Won, saying the support has been "overwhelming" and he "can't wait to come home" to thank everyone in person.

She says in her Instagram post that Won "almost didn't make it out of that operating theatre alive" during the amputation, but he and the doctors "fought hard."

Hui says her parents flew to Hong Kong from B.C. to help take care of the couple's two children while the family waits for Won to be cleared to fly home.

A fundraising page set up by a friend of the family says Won's career with the city has spanned more than 20 years, while Hui is "beloved" as an anthem singer for teams including the Vancouver Canucks, BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2024.

The Canadian Press