Carbondale fundraiser to help police officer buy specialized prosthetic leg
Drake Rooks lived in the moment, dodging bullets and escaping from hotel windows before bombs detonated while teaching SWAT maneuvers to civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. For 14 years previously, he worked Grand Valley’s law enforcement scene as a deputy and as a police officer.
With a career devoted to law enforcement, it seems odd that the biggest danger to Rooks’ life would be a distracted driver on a Fruita road. After a head-on collision in late August, Rooks lost a part of his lower left leg when doctors determined it would be too difficult to salvage. Friends, family and co-workers now are hoping the community will support Rooks to raise money for a high-performing but pricey prosthetic leg.
“It’s pretty amazing. He’s dedicated his whole life to helping everyone else, and one underinsured driver takes him out,” said Rooks’ wife, Mandy.
Before the crash, Drake Rooks was following up on a dream shared by him and his wife to move to Carbondale. He and Mandy still were living in Fruita while Drake commuted to Carbondale for his new job as a Carbondale police officer. He had been on the job about seven weeks.
While off-duty at home in Fruita, Drake took his motorcycle to get a movie the night of Aug. 22. The driver of an oncoming vehicle swerved into his lane, and Rooks was launched over the car and landed in the ditch. He was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital, then flown to Denver Health Medical Center, where he spent weeks in the trauma center.
Mandy Rooks, a registered nurse at Fruita’s Family Health West, knew the X-ray of his crushed left foot did not look good.
After five surgeries, doctors said an infection in his foot threatened Rooks’ life, and he chose to have it amputated. Although Rooks now has a prosthetic leg, a fundraiser Saturday in Carbondale will raise money for Rooks to be outfitted with a better-quality, highly specialized prosthetic leg, which will help the active 43-year-old more fully regain movement.
Rooks said he hopes a new leg will help him get back to work eventually on regular duty and will help him continue the active lifestyle that attracted him to the mountain town in the first place.
“Really I’m just lucky to be alive,” he said. “I’m lucky I just lost my foot and I’m not paralyzed or dead. It’s something that can happen to anybody. People just don’t realize it.”
Rooks said he thinks a new prosthetic leg costs about $20,000. Medical bills also have been piling up for the couple.
The driver in the crash, who was found to be at fault, carried only liability insurance on his vehicle, which covered only $25,000 of the costs.
“That doesn’t even cover the ambulance ride and the ER visit,” Mandy Rooks said.
Drake Rooks was hired at the Police Department on July 5, but his health insurance did not go into effect until one full calendar month passed. That meant his coverage didn’t start until Sept. 1, eight days after the accident.
Although obviously there was no way to predict such an event, Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said if he could have known about the impending crash, he could have made Rooks’ start date in June.
That way, Rooks’ insurance would have gone into effect earlier.
“We’ve never had anything like this happen,” Schilling said. “There’s just a lot quirks.”
Regardless, Schilling said, he is impressed that Rooks is eager to get back to work so soon. Rooks is determined to get back on the job in six weeks.
Schilling’s wife, Stephanie, organized the fundraiser, and the Rookses have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends and new co-workers who have helped the couple make the move from Fruita to Carbondale.
“We’ve always wanted to live up here, and it seemed like there was never a good time,” Drake Rooks said.
“Finally, this was a good time in our lives. After the accident, we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Grand Junction cops and people from Carbondale.”