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Minnehaha soccer coach injured in explosion focuses on recovery

Posted on 26 October 2017 by calvin

Duffeys are grateful for community support as they move, seek larger vehicle, and await birth of their first baby

After losing his right leg following the Minnehaha Academy gas explosion on Aug. 2, Bryan Duffey is focused on walking again and becoming a father in January.

“Bryan has continued to be forgiving and gracious in all of this, and has been so strong through it all,” observed his wife, Jamie. “There are, of course, frustrations and a great sense of loss, but we work through them together. Right now we are just focused on getting him walking again, and for us to keep moving forward with the changes so that we can focus on the baby when he gets here.”

Rescued from under a column and a wall
After graduating from high school in Nebraska, Bryan earned his degree from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he met his future wife, Jamie, who was originally from Perham, Minn. The two got to know each other while working for the non-profit Hope for Opelousas in Louisiana, providing after-school programs for grades 4-12. After a stint in Wisconsin, Bryan took a job as an assistant soccer coach and custodian at Minnehaha Academy a year ago. Jamie works full-time for Midwest Special Services providing day training for adults with disabilities.

On Aug. 2, Bryan was working at Minnehaha Academy when the building exploded.
He was fortunate to be found by two responding officers and a third off-duty deputy who lives near Minnehaha. They removed a column that landed on top of him first. Then they took apart a wall brick by brick to uncover Bryan’s entire lower body before they could get him to safety. Bryan was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center and was released 27 days later on his two-year wedding anniversary.

“I am overwhelmed thinking about how blessed we are to have had these men there and to have Bryan still with us today,” said his wife, Jamie on their CaringBridge page.

Bryan underwent several surgeries that left him with his right leg amputated just above the knee and his left leg stabilized by screws and a nail through his tibia.

Big purchases needed to help Bryan achieve independence
The injury pushed the Duffeys into buying a house earlier than planned. They were renting a home in Minneapolis before the explosion but weren’t able to modify it to suit Bryan’s needs, so they purchased a home in St. Paul. They were able to move in a week after his release from the hospital, but they are still waiting for workers compensation to approve funding for a bathroom remodel so that Bryan can transfer without pain, and they can have a bathroom door back on.

Photo left: Wed two years ago, Bryan and Jamie Duffey are expecting their first child in January, which helps carry them through the tough times they’ve been facing since Bryan was injured and lost his right leg following the gas explosion at Minnehaha Academy on Aug. 2, 2017. (Photo submitted)

By the beginning of October, Bryan’s neck brace was off, which was a relief for his wife to know that his neck is good and he could sleep a little more comfortably. Bryan was beginning to bear some weight on his left leg, which means he is getting closer to starting the prosthesis process.

He also graduated from speech therapy, which mostly worked with his brain injury.

“This is exciting because mentally he is able to drive again,” said Jamie via CaringBridge. “Unfortunately, physically he is not able to drive until we get a new vehicle that is higher off the ground and will have hand controls put in. We hope to get him driving soon so that he can gain some of his independence back.”

The couple owns two small cars, a Honda Civic and Bryan’s tiny Ford Fiesta. They can’t fit Bryan’s wheelchair and a baby in the Fiesta. And so, they’re on a hunt for a bigger vehicle that is higher off the ground. With his prosthesis, he needs a vehicle that will enable him to keep his knee joint at a 90-degree angle and not have to jump out of, explained Jamie. They also plan to outfit it through worker’s compensation with hand controls so that Bryan can drive independently.

The couple wasn’t planning on buying a house, and they weren’t planning to also replace a vehicle right now just before having a new baby. “Financially, it’s going to be really tight,” remarked Jamie. While they considered moving to a place where the cost of living isn’t as high, they decided to stay in the Twin Cities because of the increased opportunity for employment and access to doctors.

Fundraiser to help buy larger vehicle
Bryan’s in-laws, Wes and Teresa Jeltema, have attended Richville United Methodist Church in northern Minnesota where they live for the past ten years. On Oct. 7, the church held spaghetti feed, serving 100 people and raising over $3,500 to date. Fifteen volunteers served, sang, and cleaned up.

If you want to participate, but could not get to Richville, consider mailing a check to Richville United Methodist Church, 130 SW 1st Ave., P.O. Box 67, Richville, MN 56576, or wiring a gift of stock, bonds or mutual funds to TY9146536. “This will help Bryan and his wife, Jamie, who is six months pregnant, maintain appropriate housing and secure transportation for the trying months ahead,” remarked Richville United Methodist pastor Rod Turnquist.

“Bryan and Jamie have inspired all of us by their honesty, their courage, and their resilience,” added Turnquist.

What keeps them going
Their faith and the support of family, friends and the Minnehaha community is helping pull the Duffeys through this difficult time. Plus, there’s the excitement of expecting their first child.

“I think that having a baby on the way helps to motivate,” observed Jamie.

They are grateful for the support they’ve received since the explosion.

“We have been supported by so many families, friends, church community, and work communities,” remarked Jamie. “Minnehaha Academy has surrounded us with love and prayers, and families have been bringing us meals.” Their church, Calvary Baptist, has also brought them meals regularly.

The Duffeys appreciate all prayers and positive vibes sent their way.

Life has become busy once again.

“Bryan coached every regular season soccer game, and we are now moving into playoffs,” wrote Jamie on the CaringBridge site Oct. 7. “This has been such a blessing for him as this created some normalcy, and allowed him to continue to do something that he loves.”

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