Updated: November 26, 2020 10:42 PM
Created: November 26, 2020 09:31 PM
If a journey begins with a single step, then Jed Anderson is well on his way.
"It feels weird, but in the same sense, it's awesome," he says quietly. "It's awesome because I get to walk, so I'm excited that way."
Just days before Thanksgiving, the 15-year-old, who now calls Willmar home, walked for the very first time with his new prosthetic leg.
The prosthesis, made of stainless steel and plastic, weighs about as much as a human leg. He's being helped in the process by Limb Lab, a Minnesota prosthetic and orthotic provider.
"It doesn't hurt too much, like I was expecting it to hurt, because I'm not used to it," Jed says. "I haven't walked in a while, but it's actually doing a lot better than I thought it did."
Those first steps are a new beginning for him and his family, after a terrible farm accident on Sept. 14.
"I got a text saying there was an accident, and I flew out of the RV, and they were calling, FaceTiming," recalls Jed's mother Jana. "I of course was hysterical. I knew really nothing. They couldn't give me any answers. Just that they were thankful that he was alive."
Jed was working at a Renville County farm owned by Randy Buboltz, a family friend.
Around 10:30 a.m., the teen was sitting on a grain dryer, when his legs got entangled in an auger.
"I remember getting phone calls right away, about the extent of his injury," says Jessica Downes, an orthopedic surgeon at Hennepin County Medical Center. "I mean, essentially, the injury was an amputation. It was a near-complete amputation of the foot."
The auger caused an open fracture in Jed's right foot that later required reconstructive surgeries.
But his left foot was badly mangled; a tourniquet helped save his life.
Jed's family says despite the incredible pain, he remained calm, quietly giving first responders information about how to free him from the auger and updating them on his condition.
As the injured teen was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center, Jana left the family home in Lubbock, Texas, jumped on a plane, and joined her son at the hospital.
"Just seeing him, and being grateful that he was alive is really what got me through all of it," she says. "And then, prayer."
Jana and her husband Luke moved to Minnesota to support their son during treatment. Jed ended up staying in the hospital for four weeks. He would eventually undergo five surgeries.
There were difficult choices ahead, especially concerning Jed's left foot.
"So initially my concern was, I didn't know how we were going to be able to save it," Downes remembers. "That was my concern, how severe it was, and what could we do to help him."
Jed, his family, and his doctors had numerous discussions about his options.
"He said, I want to get back to farming, and I want to do it as quickly as possible," Downes says.
She says through it all, Jed showed quiet courage and a sense of humor.
"We had that conversation. I said the other option is an amputation, but I think that's a lot to talk about, so can I come back later. And his response was okay, but when you come back, can you bring some dinner, I'm hungry," Downes smiles. "That's Jed."
In the end, he decided that an amputation would be better than trying to save his badly damaged foot.
"When they said that it would take a lot of surgeries and you know, maybe a year before I could walk again, I was just like, I don't want to do that," Jed says.
"And I talked with a few people that tried to save their legs from similar accidents and they said, it wasn't worth it, they were in a lot of pain."
Now, as he recovers, the Anderson's say their strong faith is helping them get them through this.
"Knowing God was a huge part of it because I don't know where I would be or how it would've went if I didn't know who God was," Jed says. "He was probably the biggest part that helped me get along. He was like my crutch when I didn't have my legs."
Jana says on the day Jed was injured, 41 people, including Buboltz, who's also a first responder, were there to help.
She says she wants everyone who responded, to know that her family is forever grateful.
"I can't explain the power of prayer more than I can from that day," Jana exclaims. "Never have I ever experienced such a feeling in those three weeks we were at the hospital. He knew there were people out there praying for him."
The road ahead won't be easy. Jed will undergo physical therapy twice a week and has to do daily exercises. He'll have to learn to walk again, using his leg and core muscles to balance himself and to move where he wants to go.
"One of the hardest things is going to learn how to balance with the loss of his limb," Downes explains. "Not only has he lost the bones and muscles, but he's also lost the ability to tell where his ankle and foot are in space like he doesn't have the feedback through the prosthesis."
Amputees typically go through about three months of physical therapy, she adds.
Jed has appointments set up through December. Since he's still growing, his prosthesis will have to be changed from time to time. Still, this 15-year-old appears energized by the challenges that might daunt others.
Jana says Jed went hunting over the weekend.
He fell down once, she says, but kept on going.
"I'm super-proud of him and how far he's come," she declares. "This isn't his sentence, it's just a season right now, and he's been so good about keeping that in perspective."
Now for Jed, and those around him, lessons about courage, perseverance, and hope.
"For Jed, it's not just walking. It's running, it's hunting, it's out on uneven terrain, farming," Downes says, adding he'll be capable of doing all those things. "Don't ever underestimate how strong someone is based on their age. He's 15, but he could teach the rest of us a lot of lessons."
The Buboltz family is organizing a crowdfunding page to help the Anderson's.
The family is still deciding on the future, whether to stay in Minnesota, or move elsewhere.
Jed says he's thinking about eventually joining the family construction business.
For now though, he says he's very much alive and more than ready to continue his journey.
"There's no turning around, I can't go back," Jed says. "I'd have to say overall I'm very happy with what I chose, and that there's a lot of happiness going through my head."
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