Minnesota teen amputee helping create opportunities for other amputees
18-year-old Jed Anderson is riding the wave and relishing every moment.
“So now we’re trying to get next year an amputee side of the wake surfing competition,” he smiles.
His prosthetic lower left leg is fitted with a waterproof, shock-absorbing attachment that works just fine, even in a several-foot-high wake, generated by a powerboat.
“It has a hydraulic shock that compresses,” Anderson explains.
That’s far from the only watersport the active Willmar teen takes part in.
“Today I learned how to ride in an efoil, which is like a surfboard with an electric motor on it, and you float in the air,” Anderson says. “I would rather be like, what’s the next thing I can accomplish, what is the next obstacle I can get over?”
But this was no ordinary outing on Green Lake in Kandiyohi County.
It’s a reunion of sorts. Some quality time between Anderson and the man he calls his hero, Renville County Deputy Sheriff Andrew Hussman.
“So, I chose Andrew because that’s the one that God placed on my heart to choose,” Anderson says quietly.
“I’m not a very spiritual man myself,” Hussman adds. “But somebody was looking over Jed.”
He first met the teen on an emergency call on September 14, 2020.
It was a terrible farm accident.
“The pain was really high but right away. It was the only time I cried,” Anderson recalls. “And then it was like an adrenaline rush, and it was like nothing. I felt nothing.”
He was fifteen at the time and sitting on a grain dryer when his legs got entangled in an auger.
Hussman was the first to arrive on the scene.
“He was very stoic. It was as if the pain had kicked in,” the deputy remembers. “He said the adrenaline, but he was more calm than most people would be when their leg is trapped.”
The auger caused an open fracture in Anderson’s right foot.
But Hussman saw the teen’s left foot was badly mangled.
“I didn’t for a second think there was a chance of it being saved,” Hussman said. “I would explain it as a crushing, severing injury. The chance of it being saved is very slim, so I knew the damage was significant.”
“He’s the one that put the tourniquet on, and basically, in my opinion, saved my life,” Anderson adds. “Because otherwise, I would have bled out.”
Anderson remained conscious, even helping to remove the auger housing.
First responders had to use an acetylene torch to cut up the auger itself before gently extricating Jed.
It would take a team of forty-two people: first responders, paramedics, sheriff’s deputies, and an air ambulance crew to first free him and then transport him to HCMC.
“I just wanted him to be alive,” declares Jana Anderson, Jed’s mom. “That was it, that was all I could think about, is just keep him, I just want him alive.”
Jana Anderson would tell you her son is a survivor.
Jed Anderson spent four weeks in the hospital and had to undergo five surgeries.
After deciding he wanted the mobility of using a prosthetic, he began a regimen that included months of physical therapy and fittings for an artificial limb.
“Jed’s journey has become about full throttle, and not needing anything left unsaid, not leaving any rock unturned,” Jana Anderson says.
Sadly, she notes, her family has been through this before.
In 1968, Jana Anderson’s uncle, Jon Van Dyke, was also injured from an auger when he was just twelve.
Years later, she says, he died by suicide.
Jana Anderson says she’s been encouraging Jed Anderson to stay positive and take on any activity he can think of, from hunting to snowmobiling, snowboarding, and of course, surfing.
“Anything I can do to get him involved, to be around people who are going through it, because it can be isolating,” she notes. “Tragedy can strike at any time, but let’s get you involved. Let’s get you connected, get you back to normal, whatever normal is considered in a life situation, so you can make the best of what you have.”
Jed Anderson is doing just that, including mentoring other young people who have lost limbs and encouraging them to join him on the water for surfing competitions and other activities.
He says he recently took part in the Minnesota wakesurf competition as an amateur, and that he was the only amputee surfer there.
Now, Jed Anderson and his mom are hoping to organize a section of the event for amputees and are inviting people from across the country.
“When they do the surf competition, or the surf thing again where they teach amputees how to surf and have supplies that they need, I was like, I want to get you guys out there, so you can learn how to do this, so you guys can do it like I can,” he explains.
“We already have things in motion to help build this for next year,” Jed Anderson adds. “So, there’s an actual big turnout, and we have people coming from all over the U.S., and not just from Minnesota.”
Jed Anderson and his mother are also working with ‘Our Heroes Tour’, a Minnesota non-profit that partnered with the Minnesota Wakesurf Championship this year.
The group is shooting a video about Jed Anderson’s story and Hussman’s part in his rescue.
The story is to be available online sometime later this year, the non-profit says.
Hussman meanwhile says he’s not a hero, but part of a team of heroes, and says he’s proud of Jed’s achievements.
“To see that he not only has rebounded but has improved his life,” Hussman says. “More often than not, we don’t get to hear those wonderful ends to a bad situation and I’m grateful he was able to turn it around, that he could come out of it smiling and shining.”
Jed Anderson says when he’s not out on the water, he continues to work on a farm in Lake Lillian, in Kandiyohi County.
“You get through the hard days, there’s good days on the other side, you just have to keep pushing,” he says. “Surround yourself with good friends that are going to build you up instead of tear you down because the people that are around you, supporting you, are going to be the ones that mean the most in your story.”