Nearly a year after getting a prosthetic limb, a Willmar teen is doing what he loves — and mentoring others
Jed Anderson is in his happy place.
“Farming — I love it,” he smiles. “It’s putting a kid in a candy shop.”
The 16-year old from Willmar was behind the wheel of a tank-sized tractor plowing the fields of a Kandiyohi County farm.
"You put me in there and I’ll smile and do it,” Jed says with an easy grin. “I could go night and day, sunup to sundown."
He sometimes goes from 7 in the morning until 9:30 at night, his family says.
Working with a single-mindedness and determination that has served him well.
We asked Jed’s mom, Jana, the difference she sees in him now, versus a year ago.
“He doesn’t let anything stand in his way,” she said. “And he has that attitude that he’s just going to do it, no matter what."
A year ago, Jed faced an agonizing choice after a terrible farm accident on Sept. 14, 2020.
"I got a text saying there was an accident, and I flew out of the RV, and they were calling, FaceTiming,” Jana told us during an interview last November. “I, of course, was hysterical. I knew really nothing. They couldn’t give me any answers. Just that they were thankful he was alive.”
Jed, working at a Renville County farm, was sitting on a grain dryer when his legs got entangled in an auger. His doctors say a tourniquet helped save his life.
"You know, they told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to run or walk too much again,” Jed recalls.
The auger caused an open fracture in Jed’s right foot that required reconstructive surgeries.
But his left foot was badly mangled. Doctors told Jed he’d have to choose between amputation or trying to save it.
"I’ve been thinking a lot about what would’ve happened if I’d taken the other route and keeping the other foot and trying to do the surgeries and that,” he now says.
After hearing other patients speak out about the pain, and with no guarantees about his mobility, Jed opted for amputation and the use of a prosthetic limb.
He spent four weeks in the hospital, undergoing five surgeries.
Jed began walking on his new prosthetic leg just before Thanksgiving.
"It feels weird, but in the same sense, it feels awesome,” he said at the time, as he navigated an uneven floor at Limb Lab, a Minneapolis prosthetic and orthotic provider.
Jed now says his and his family’s faith — and a lot of prayer — helped with the healing.
"All the prayers that we had in the hospital, whenever anybody was praying for us, I think God kept the judgment away and just mended my heart,” he explains.
In the year since, Jed has learned to not only walk again but also to try anything a 16-year old boy could think of.
“He went snowboarding for the first time. We had him out ice skating. He was playing hockey. I think it was about two to three weeks after he got his first prosthetic,” Jana remembers. “He’s done the tubing this summer. All the things he normally does — mountain biking, fishing, hunting.”
“He’s not leaving anything undone,” she adds. “He’s trying new things that he’s never done before, and he’s not sitting on the sidelines.”
Along the way, Jed is helping others.
“I met with Jed the day before I chose to have the amputation,” Emma Braulick says. “He was actually a big impact on it.”
Emma, 16, from Sleepy Eye, notes how she severely broke her leg during an ATV accident last June. It became badly infected, and she faced the same difficult choice as Jed.
Limb Lab prosthetist Yakov "Jacob" Gradinar recalls how Jed became a mentor for Emma, talking about his experience with her.
“Connecting both of them was really awesome,” he says. “They were on the same floor, they were going through similar situations. You could see that Emma was doing much better after talking to Jed.”
Emma says the informal peer-to-peer counseling made a big difference.
"Knowing there’s another teenager out there that has went through something similar and just knowing that you will make it through it,” she says. “It helps you a lot being able to walk, and choosing to walk is just honestly the best thing that can happen."
"I’ve been checking on her, making sure her leg’s OK and all this,” Jed says. “You know, trying to be the light where I can to help out and show her I’ve come through the same thing she has."
After all that’s happened, Jed says his own healing is going well.
"Leg is good. We got a lightning design on this one,” pointing to his newest prosthetic. “Then I had to get a new silicone foot, because I wore the other one out, had to get a new set of toes,” he says with a smile.
“It looks like he got to the point where he needs less and less adjustments,” Gradinar notes. “He’s using a four-wheeler, he was snowmobiling during the winter. That is very awesome to be able to get patients to back where they were before. That is our goal.”
Jed’s family says he’s spent hundreds of hours in physical therapy.
Because he’s still growing, he’s had to have prosthetic fittings every other month or so.
Through it all, Jed’s family has always been there for him.
"He’s very passionate,” Jana says. “He’s got a lust for life like no one I’ve ever seen, and he’s all-around one of the best humans I know. I knew he was going to be OK."
Jed says he’s thinking about all kinds of things for the future: starting a cattle ranch with his brother, or maybe excavating.
We asked his mom if there’s anything fun he hasn’t tried yet.
She says he hopes to try mountain sledding — snowmobiling in the mountains.
"Jed has overcome a lot. It’s been great to see him push through and encourage, just to not slow down,” his father Luke adds. “He’s got a great mentor, his mom, who’s a good person alone. But he’s been a great life coach for all of us. Inspire us to be grateful for everything we have around us.”
So if you’re ever in Willmar, take a look around.
You might just see Jed doing what he loves best and looking forward.
"Instead of asking why me, just get up and show people there’s a second way,” he says. "Instead of focusing on the bad about what happened, you know, focus on the good. If you focus on good, you’ll get good."