‘Dreams come true’ for Junction father who lost leg in 2007
This is a story about a freak accident that led to a once-in-a-lifetime journey.
On Jan. 10, 2007, a bull plug careening like a 12-pound cannon ball took David Jenkins, 30, out at the legs.
About 30 of Jenkins’ co-workers at the drill site near Parachute rushed to pull him away from the malfunctioning fracking pump that launched a 4-inch piece of iron in the operator assistant’s direction.
Only Jenkins, who resides in Grand Junction, was injured by the metal fitting shaped like a bullet.
“It just happened so quick. It was instantaneous,” Jenkins said. “It was like a cannon when it went off. The next thing I knew I was on the ground and my right foot was pointing up toward me.”
Jenkins’ comrades staunched the blood flowing from his mangled legs using tourniquets.
“I lost a lot of blood. I was feeling pain, but I think my body took over and kind of helped me out with it. It wasn’t out-of-control pain. I was able to tolerate it,” Jenkins said.
A CareFlight helicopter flew Jenkins to St. Mary’s Hospital, where doctors worked to clean up his legs and stabilize his condition.
“It took out my right leg below the knee and my left leg below the knee,” he said. “They had to amputate the right leg. The left leg they were able to save, but they had to get me over to Denver to do that.”
As he fluttered in and out of consciousness, Jenkins believed his left leg could be saved because he could still wiggle his toes, he said.
“They wanted to amputate the left, but I knew it was still good. I didn’t know the extent of the damage because the guys wouldn’t let me look at it, which was probably a good thing,” Jenkins said.
Father of a newborn baby and engaged to be married, Jenkins told his now-wife, Sasha, to fight to save his leg.
“She did and that’s how we ended up in Denver,” Jenkins said. “She’s a keeper.”
Jenkins was flown to Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center where doctors who specialize in limb-salvaging treatments devised a plan to use bone from a deceased donor, as well as muscle and skin from his right thigh, to save his left leg.
The procedure was successful.
“It definitely has changed my life,” he said. “It was the first time they put a cadaver bone in a trauma patient. I have six inches of somebody else’s tibia in my left leg. That is what allowed me to keep my left leg. I never knew who the donor was.”
The road to recovery was daunting. Jenkins faced the challenge of learning how to walk all over again with a prosthetic on his right leg and limited motion in his left.
“If it wasn’t for my family’s continuous support and having my wife and son by my side, I don’t know if my recovery would have happened so fast,” he said.
Jenkins exceeded expectations and was able to return to work almost a year to the day after the accident happened.
Since the accident, Jenkins said he resumed normal life and enjoys fishing, hiking, golfing — with an improved swing — and coaching his son’s baseball team.
His family has grown with the addition of another baby and he proudly reports that keeping up with two children is never an issue.
“I look at it like life is only what you make of it and I am not going to let having only one leg hold me back,” he said.
ROSE PARADE JOURNEY
The families of 81 organ, eye and tissue donors, just like the person who donated the tibia that saved Jenkins’ left leg, will be memorialized on the Donate Life Float in the 2014 Tournament of Roses parade.
“Each honored donor is remembered by their generosity, compassion, and lives saved and healed through donations after death,” said Erin Dolin, a spokeswoman for Donor Alliance and Allosource, the nonprofit that sponsored Jenkins’ trip.
Donor “floragraphs” will grace lanterns illuminating Jenkins and 29 other float riders — all transplant recipients — along its five-mile route on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., Dolin said.
Donate Life is a 501(c)3 nonprofit alliance of national organizations and state teams across the United States committed to increasing organ, eye and tissue donation.
The parade will be watched on television Jan. 1 by more than 40 million viewers nationwide, parade officials said.
AlloSource, a nonprofit organization that develops, processes and distributes life-saving allografts (tissue from cadavers), sponsored Jenkins for the trip to California.
Jenkins’ family accompanied him on the journey, which he called a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The 125th Rose Parade, themed “Dreams Come True,” will be broadcast nationally starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday local time.
The parade features majestic floral floats, high-stepping equestrian units and spirited marching bands, parade officials said.
Following the parade, the 100th Rose Bowl Game between Michigan State and Stanford kicks off at 3:10 p.m. local time.