Utah man’s life takes unexpected detour after boating accident
SALT LAKE CITY — When Braxton Jones went boating at Deer Creek Reservoir last July, he had no idea it would be a day that would change his life forever.
The 21-year-old man had just returned to Utah after several months away. He was excited to spend time with family and friends.
“Braxton says, ‘Hey, I’m going to ask my friend’s family if we can use their boat to go boating on Saturday,’” Jess Jones, Braxton’s dad, told KSL TV.
A small group, including Jess and Braxton’s then-girlfriend, Tasha Kamachi, took the boat out.
“He’s just always been an adventurous go-getter,” Kamachi said, adding that it’s something that first attracted her to Braxton.
The group was having a great time. Jess was driving the boat. Braxton was on the water.
“Braxton was surfing and trying to make us and his sisters laugh and stuff,” Kamachi said of that day. “He’s just always had that goofy personality.”
But then, things took a turn.
“I was driving the boat. I came back around,” Jess described. “I thought that I had put the boat into neutral, (but) the propeller was still turning.”
As the boat went over a wave, Braxton said it came straight for him, but there was nothing he could do.
“The boat was coming straight at me. I was like, ‘Oh shoot,’” Braxton recalled. “It was not slowing down; I didn’t know what to do.”
“I remember looking forward. Over the boat, I could see him,” Kamachi said. “We kind of went over a big wave, kind of hear the thud of him pushing off the boat.”
Jess had caught his son’s foot in the prop.
“I lifted my foot out of the water and it was cut in four pieces,” Braxton said.
“He started screaming, so I started screaming,” Kamachi said.
Jess said the moments from that day haunt him.
“It hit him four times and cut completely through bone, nerves, muscle, everything.”
Braxton said “everyone was freaking out,” and he knew things were serious. But in true Braxton style, the 21-year-old man quickly calmed down and said he knew everyone needed to know he was OK.
The group called 9-1-1 and rushed him to the dock where an ambulance was waiting.
When Braxton called his mom from the ambulance, he described the moment, while laughing: “I call her. I say, ‘Hey, what’s up?’”
Heather Finlinson was not as calm.
“She’s like, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’”
Heather said Braxton acted like everything was fine, like he always does.
“He Facetimed me, and he’s like, ‘Mom, I’m OK. I’m fine.’”
Braxton said by that point, he knew he would lose his foot. But, in his words, “it’s just a foot.”
“I don’t like being negative at all,” Braxton said of that moment.
Dr. Paul Deramo is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon that specializes in amputations.
“When I saw him, I knew immediately he had a severe, devastating injury,” Deramo said. “I knew up front that we would have to do an amputation.”
What Braxton didn’t know at the time is that Deramo is one of only a handful of surgeons that performs something called “Targeted Muscle Reinnervation” — a surgery that essentially eliminates a lifetime of phantom pain for amputees.
He had just moved to Utah weeks earlier.
“Most amputations, the tissue is actually intact,” Deramo said as he described Braxton’s injury. “He was missing a good amount of tissue, so the orthopedic surgeon and I worked together to do his amputation.”
Deramo said getting this surgery right was critical for Braxton.
“He’s a young guy that’s going to live for another 60, 70, 80 years, and he’s going to deal with chronic pain if he just had a standard amputation,” Deramo said. “By doing this, we’re giving him the best shot (to) not have a lifetime of problems.”
The days and months that followed were heart-wrenching for Braxton’s family.
“After they did his leg amputation, we went in to see him, and he said, ‘I just want to make sure you guys are OK.’ And I said, ‘We’re OK because you’re OK.’ Then I went and bawled my eyes out,” Heather said.
While Braxton’s life has been filled with surgeries, doctor’s visits and lot of hard work for rehab while his leg heals and he regains strength, his mental state has been positive. It’s a gift his family said he has always had — the ability to look for the “good” in any situation.
With his family support and his will to thrive, his medical team said there’s nothing that will hold him back, and they expect to see him back on the soccer field, and in the water, soon.
The next month, Tasha and Braxton became engaged.
“He’s still the same. Nothing’s changed,” Kamachi said. “He has one less leg, but he’s still Braxton.”
Braxton and Tasha are set to get married in July, one year after the accident. He said his goal is walk down the aisle without crutches.
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