Galva teen standing strong after loss of leg

Doug Boock
Bradley Werkheiser relaxes on the deck of his Galva home on Oct. 16 while discussing his life after losing the lower portion of his left leg following an auto accident this summer.

Just 19 years old, Bradley Werkheiser’s already had to make a decision that’ll affect the rest of his life. Now that he’s made that choice - having his left lower leg amputated - he’s dealing with the daily results of that decision.

“I’d take it back in a heartbeat,” Werkheiser said of the auto accident which prompted his decision. “But you can’t help it. You just have to look at it one day at a time. I could be whining and stuff and feeling sorry for myself, but you can’t change it. You’ve gotta go on.”

Werkheiser’s life changed about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 3. That’s when the Ford F150 pickup he was driving crashed into a guard rail about three miles southeast of Cambridge.

Werkheiser, of Galva, said he’d fallen asleep while driving, only to wake up and see an oncoming car in his lane. Werkheiser swerved to the left, toward the rail. He hit it going an estimated 52 miles an hour, according to police. The rail pierced through the truck, right into the driver’s section.

“I looked up and thought, ‘Oh boy; this is going to hurt,’” Werkheiser recalled Oct. 16.

Hurt it did. Werkheiser was left in a pool of blood. His lower left leg had a three-inch section of bone missing about halfway down the leg. His left big toe and his left foot were both dangling - staying attached only by skin, muscles and tendons. The oncoming car didn’t stop. Werkheiser lay on the road, blacked out for most of the three hours before emergency help arrived.

“I’m really glad that I don’t remember it,” he concedes.

He was flown to Illini Hospital in Silvis, then transported to St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria. In Peoria, doctors amputated his big toe right away, and inserted eight screws and a plate into the back of his leg. After about three days in the hospital they also said they could try to save his lower leg, but it might take about 15 surgeries - including skin grafting - over a two-year period.

One more of his toes would have to be removed also.

Left with a choice of saving his lower leg and foot or forgoing the additional pain of more surgeries, Werkheiser opted for amputation.

“I said, ‘Cut it off . . . I don’t want to be in the hospital any more than I already have been,’” he recalled.

Things went much better for Werkheiser after that. After amputation, he was back home in three or four days. He still believes he made the right decision.

“I mean, it (stinks) that I don’t have a leg, but I’d still be in the hospital probably if we tried to save it, and I didn’t really want to do that,” he explained.

So, Werkheiser’s spent the past two months getting used to life after his amputation. It’s had its challenges, including about a dozen fall-downs, and “phantom” feelings.

“Your head says your foot itches and you want to reach down to itch it, but it’s not there. That’s kind of hard to get used to,” said the 2007 Galva High School graduate.

Despite the changes he’s adjusting to physically, the son of Barry and Patty Werkheiser is determined to make the best of it.

“It won’t slow me down,” he stated. “Heck, people in the Olympics run and swim with prostheses, so it won’t slow me down. If anything, it will make me do more, just to show I can do it, I think.”

A benefit for Werkheiser will be held in Bishop Hill on Saturday, Nov. 2. Food will be served beginning at 4 p.m. at the Filling Station.

A 50/50 drawing and music by Spoon River String Band will be held at the Bishop Hill fire station from 4 to 6 p.m. Galva teen band Motorbiscuit will play at the fire station later in the evening.

An auction will be held at 6 p.m. at the fire station.

Donations will be accepted at the Filling Station, by calling Linda Spring at 927-3355 or at Community State Bank of Galva.