Year of Challenges, Changes For Minnehaha Academy Coach Injured in Explosion

August 02, 2018 10:24 PM

The image of a collapsed brick building, engulfed in flames, is a memory Bryan Duffey only has because someone has told him about it.

"Everything I experienced that day is all a story," Duffey said. "It's nothing that I remember."

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RELATED: Pillar-Raising Event Marks 1 Year Since Explosion at Minnehaha Academy

Duffey, an assistant soccer coach at Minnehaha Academy, was injured when a portion of the school's upper campus collapsed. The collapse was triggered after a gas leak sparked a massive explosion and fire.

The coach had been helping replant a bush in front of the school near the parking lot when the explosion happened. First responders pulled Duffey from underneath debris and rushed him to the hospital, where doctors were forced to amputate his right leg.

RELATED: Minnehaha Academy Coverage

Over the past year, Duffey has faced major life changes; from learning to walk again, to becoming a father. He said the explosion helped him gain perspective.

The Day Of The Explosion

Jamie, Duffey's wife, said she learned about the collapse from a co-worker.

"I had a staff member that came and asked me, 'Where does your husband work again?' and I told her and she's like, 'You need to try and call him,'" Jamie said.  

"I kept calling and calling and calling his phone and could not get through."

When Jamie learned Bryan had been injured, she collapsed in the hallway. She was nearly five-months pregnant with their son at the time.

"Every thought is running through your head, especially when you're pregnant," Jamie said. "Am I going to still have a husband? Is my child going to have a father?"

EXTENDED INTERVIEW: Coach Injured in Minnehaha Academy Talks About Year of Challenge, Change

Days later, Bryan woke up to find his right leg was gone.

"I was like, 'Alright, I see my situation,'" Bryan said. "I just got to get going, got to get back to it."

Bryan said his positivity helped him through the first couple of weeks in the hospital. He quickly challenged himself. Several times, he recalled nurses getting upset with him pushing so hard.

Just one month after the explosion, Bryan was cleared to leave the rehab facility and head home. The couple had to buy a new house to accommodate Bryan's wheelchair.

Several weeks after that, Bryan was back on the soccer field sidelines with the Minnehaha Academy team.

"I still remember being wheeled by my wife along that track, and having the players from both sides stop their warmup," Bryan said. "The people in the stands just clap and it's like, all I did was survive.

"Anybody could do this. I didn't do anything heroic."

His wife disagrees.

"I think that all of us are given a story for a reason," Jamie said.

A "New Normal"

As the seasons changed, Bryan began walking again with the use of a prosthetic leg. Jamie snapped photos of him practicing in their living room at Christmas, a brightly-lit tree in the background. He practiced outside on the icy sidewalk.

Bryan said he was pushing to prepare for yet another major life change: the birth of their son.

"I knew that I was going to have a kid, so I had to move on because I need to be an example for him," Bryan said.

In January, the couple welcomed Oliver to the world.

"Every day, watching him grow and seeing those changes, I think is one thing that I have tried to take the time to do," Bryan said.

Bryan said even after a year of growth and adjustments, there are still hurdles that come up unexpectedly.

"I'd try to jump and couldn't," Bryan said "Every time I try to sit down on anything it's more of a plop."

For Bryan, a lifelong soccer player, the goal is to become more mobile this next year. He has a prosthetic which allows for more movement that he'll be able to eventually jog in.

But Bryan also said the events of the last year have given him a lot of perspective.

"It's frustrating, but at the same time I feel so full of grace to be alive and to be experiencing some of this stuff that I'm experiencing now," he said.

Credits

Kirsten Swanson

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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