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15 surgeries later, bus crash survivor returns to work

Tue., Feb. 21, 2012, 8:36 a.m.

MOSCOW, Idaho — Ken Anderson has a clear memory of the accident on the Washington State University campus, particularly the moment of impact.

Anderson, a program coordinator in the WSU Department of History, was riding his bike Nov. 18 when his tires slipped on the icy sidewalk at the corner of Stadium Way and Wilson Road. He was thrown in the path of an oncoming Pullman Transit bus. Anderson’s legs were crushed, resulting in eight weeks of hospitalization and near-amputation of both legs.

“It was like for a split-second I kind of knew what was happening but couldn’t quite believe it,” he said. “Then, instantly, that was followed by trying to do what I could to preserve my life. I tried to scramble out of the way, and I didn’t quite make it.”

Anderson was a daily bicycler and had ridden around the WSU campus for 15 years, “without so much as a skinned knee.”

He said he underwent about 15 surgeries to repair his legs, sometimes going under the knife twice a day because of post-surgery complications. In the first 10 days after the accident, doctors told Anderson he had a good chance of losing both legs, and at least a 90 percent chance of losing the left leg, which suffered a severed artery from the accident.

What made the difference, he said, was being transferred from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

“The doctors in Spokane realized my injuries were too severe for them to treat with their expertise, and the specialist in Seattle is really what made the difference,” Anderson said. “So I’m grateful, and so fortunate. Not only did I keep both legs, but it looks like I’ll have almost complete function once I’m healed up.”

Anderson was released from Harborview Medical Center Jan. 13 and is recovering in a wheelchair, slowly learning to use a walker. He will return to work today, ready to resume what pre-accident activities he can.

Anderson noted the extensive support he’s received from his colleagues and the role his wife has played in his recovery. While recovering in Spokane she’d visit almost daily, he said, and she made weekly trips while he was in Seattle.

“She’d get off work Friday night, get in the car and drive to Seattle to spend the weekend with me,” Anderson said. “Then late Sunday afternoon she’d pack up and drive back over again. I don’t know how she did it.”

Anderson also expressed his gratitude for the people who rushed to his side immediately following the accident. Three individuals in particular, he said, were modern-day heroes.

“I haven’t found a good way to thank the people who helped me at the accident scene,” Anderson said. “There were two men and one woman who were right there with me, treating my injuries, literally saving my life. That’s one of the most distinct things I remember, is a woman talking to me, keeping me calm and from going into shock. I’m so grateful to them.”

Of the struggles Anderson faced since the accident, he said dealing with limitations is the most difficult.

“I was very, very active,” he said. “It’s been really hard for me, mentally, to get used to not being able to walk, and depending on other people to do basic things for me. But every day is a little bit better than the last.”

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