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From left, are, front row, Justin Sherinsky, West Wyoming Hose Co.; second row, Lee Hampton, West Wyoming assistant fire chief; Drew Whyte, Billy Whyte, Barb Sherinsky, organizer; Kathy Levengood, Cindy Timinski and Barbara Lumley.

For Bill Whyte, losing his left leg was winning a battle. For five years, he battled infection and rejection after a forklift accident severely damaged his knee. He got a knee replacement and went back to work, but a persistent infection led to a second operation. Surgeons cleaned the infection site and implanted a second replacement knee. Again he went back to work and again infection invaded the site.

“My body kept rejecting it,” Whyte said. The next complication was a blood clot. He went to doctors in Philadelphia and New York. Back he went to Geisinger, where a surgeon hoped to save the leg. But it wasn’t to be. The leg had to go, or the infection could be fatal. It was amputated in November.

Whyte was ready. “In the back of my mind, I knew it was going to be amputated.”

Since the amputation Whyte is out of pain for the first time in years and has been learning to walk again with a prosthesis. He’s been going to therapy twice a week since Feb. 5.

“At first I was using a walker. Now I’m walking with a cane. At therapy I walk on my own with aides watching me,” he said.

Even with insurance the ordeal has been super expensive. Now his friends from the Moose Lodge, where Whyte, 55, of Exeter, is known as a nice guy and a straight-shooter, are planning a fundraiser for him.

He was reluctant when they approached him with the idea, but after some persuading he agreed.

“I wasn’t too fond of the idea. I don’t know, I was a little leery, but they want to help,” he said.

The event organizers Barb Sherinsky, Rosalie Messina, Debbie Mozal, Barb Lumley, Kathy Levengood, Bev Garzella and Cindy Timinski are all members of the Women of the Moose International.

The Friends of Billy Whyte Fundraiser is from 1 p.m. to 5, April 28, at the West Wyoming Fire Hall on Shoemaker Avenue. A $10 donation at the door will be accepted for enjoyment of food, drinks, music and raffle baskets. Sherinsky said local businesses are coming through for Whyte with donations. So far Nardone’s Restaurant, Silveri Catering, Antonio’s Pizza, Kim Biscotto, Appletree, Patrick Messina and Gumbas Pizza are providing food. Deejay Pat Mussina III, a Moose member, is the music man. Donations and baskets are still being accepted. Call Barb Sherinsky at 570-332-7206.

Whyte lost a leg, but not his sense of humor. He chose an image of the leg lamp from the movie “A Christmas Story” as the logo for the fundraiser flyer. He got the idea after a Moose Lodge bartender gave him a Christmas tree leg lamp ornament.

“No sense being depressed,” he said. “You gotta fight what life throws at you. It’ll be five years in October (since the accident) and I have to get back to work. Enough sitting around the house. I want to get back and function like I used to.”

Whyte’s wife, Karen, and son Eric, a sophomore, at Penn State Wilkes-Barre have had his back throughout his ordeal.

jsmiles@pittstonprogress.com