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Durango woman shares what life is like since losing leg

Jeanette Wages was hit by a pickup truck while riding her motorcycle
Jeanette Wages with her dog Gunner on Wednesday at her La Plata County home. Wages was hit by a pickup truck while riding her motorcycle in Durango. The crash resulted in serious bodily injury, including the amputation of her lower left leg. (Jerry McBride/ Durango Herald)
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Life can change in an instant.

That’s what Durango real estate agent Jeanette Wages found out last July when a Ford F-150 collided with her while she was riding her motorcycle on East Eighth Avenue. The crash resulted in the amputation of her lower left leg as well as injuries to her head, hand and shoulder.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge Anthony Baca rejected a plea agreement that would have sent the driver, 24-year-old Brittany Dee, who fled the scene of the crash, to jail for up to 90 days.

Wages believes a harsher penalty is merited for such a reckless action and callous decision to flee the scene.

It has been only three weeks since Wages was equipped with a prosthetic leg. She still spends a majority of her time in a wheelchair while becoming acclimated to the prosthetic. She tries walking on it about five hours per day.

Wages, 70, is relearning basic mobile functions.

“If it hadn't been for my family that, day-to-day, helped me through this, it would’ve been horrible.” Wages said.

She doesn’t remember much about the crash. One second, she was riding her Harley-Davidson on a summer day in July and the next she was lying in a hospital bed. From there she faced an uphill battle of nine surgeries to repair her shattered left leg, dislocated shoulder, and broken hand and wrist.

Jeanette Wages said she doesn’t remember much of a crash that resulted in serious bodily injury, including the amputation of her lower left leg. (Jerry McBride/ Durango Herald)

Wages is thankful she doesn’t remember the crash. She is also thankful for Anarchy Brewing Owner Matt Sullivan, who responded to the scene as he was opening the brewery at 225 East Eighth Ave. Sullivan, a former medic, has worked in Mercy Hospital’s emergency room and as a Flight For Life paramedic.

Witnesses said Sullivan performed lifesaving efforts at the scene, where Wages was found not breathing.

Jeanette Wages practices using her prosthetic leg while walking around her home Wednesday in La Plata County. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“He cleared my airways,” Wages said. “I don't think he performed CPR, but he did whatever he needed to do because he’s a retired Flight For Life nurse.”

Wages’ foot was crushed so badly that it would have required multiple surgeries to repair. And even then, there was no guarantee the surgeries would have been successful. She likely would have suffered pain for the rest of her life.

She decided to have the leg amputated.

“It wasn’t (the decision) I wanted to make, but I didn't feel I had any options,” Wages said. “… Every surgeon that came in said that’s the best decision I could’ve made.”

She endured excruciating pain until doctors could amputate.

She suffered an infection at one of her wound sites and was put on a heavy dosage of antibiotics.

“I had to get that done every day for six weeks,” Wages said

It was especially difficult because, at the time, it was the middle of winter and navigating the snow in a wheelchair was a tall task.

As one would expect, recovery has been a challenge.

She struggles with the most simple of things.

Jeanette Wages is getting used to using a prosthetic left leg after being hit by a pickup truck while riding her motorcycle in July. She doesn’t remember much of the crash. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

On one occasion, she cracked a bone in her hand trying to move from her bed to her wheelchair. Becoming handicapped is like learning an entirely new language, she said. Part of Wages’ discomfort is healing from her wounds and surgeries.

As of now, Wages can no longer partake in most of the activities she used to love, like riding her motorcycle or walking her dog. She also cannot complete simple tasks like cleaning her house or grabbing items off the top shelf.

“I have to now think about when someone invites me over to their home: Can I get into the bathroom? Can I close the door when I get in there?” Wages said.

But through it all, she feels blessed to be alive. She is glad she was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, because it likely prevented brain injury.

Wages said she will never again climb onto a motorcycle, but she is in the market for the fastest e-bike she can buy.

She has always been wary of the dangers motorcycles present. Yet, she wouldn’t trade her many years riding hogs – even after the crash.

Jeanette Wages using her new prosthetic leg on her back deck Wednesday. Wages was hit by a pickup truck while riding her motorcycle in July, resulting in the amputation of her lower left leg. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“I loved it, but I don't recommend it,” she said.

While she faced an initial bout of depression after the crash, Wages refuses to be kept down.

She is frustrated that the woman who hit her fled the scene. She said anyone can make a mistake, like causing a crash, but leaving the scene feels more deliberate.

Her prosthetic leg cost about $26,000. Insurance covered most of the cost. She is thankful that she is over 65 and Medicare paid a significant chunk of her medical bills.

Jeanette Wages wheels herself out to the back deck with her dog, Gunner, leading the way Wednesday. Walking Gunner is one of the activities Wages’ is no longer able to do as a result of losing her lower left leg in a crash. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“Our family has changed,” said Morgan Kimsey, Wages’ daughter. “It’ll never be the same after the 23rd of July.”

The crash has reinforced Wages’ belief that people are generally caring and well-meaning. Strangers often stop to help if they see her struggling with a mundane task, like entering a building or navigating an obstacle in downtown Durango.

She still works as real estate agent with The Wells Group, meeting with clients and working with her daughter. Her progress over the course of eight months has been impressive. She pushes herself every day to become more acclimated to the prosthetic leg.

She is appreciative of the community’s support.

“The entire community reached out through this whole thing,” Wages said. “That's what has kept me going.”


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