Jason Olson, Deseret News
Janna King, who recently lost her leg, sits with her husband, Ian, at their home in Pleasant Grove Friday.

PLEASANT GROVE — Janna King can still feel her left big toe, like she stubbed or scraped it.

Her second toe has been acting up as well, sending twinges of phantom pain through her foot, which is no longer there.

In fact, she's missing all of her left leg from above the knee.

Some days she can talk and joke about it, like when she asked her mom to send over all her socks that don't have matches.

But other days, just the mention of a missing limb is too much.

"You mourn a leg almost like a person," she said, her voice quivering a bit. "I don't know how to explain it."

The 29-year-old from Utah County casually touches her stump as she talks about her incoming prosthetic, and how she'll try to resume a previously active lifestyle as an athlete, outdoors enthusiast and professional tree trimmer.

There's no anger or bitterness when she talks about the accident on June 17.

She and co-worker Patrick Jensen, who work for Darrington Tree Experts, were jump-starting a truck along the side of state Route 51 in Springville and were almost finished when a driver veered off the road and slammed into the back of the first truck.

King was pinned between the two trucks and remembers seeing Jensen, 29, fly off to the side of the road.

She was told later that the 17-year-old driver had swerved because she had been trying to grab her pet gerbil, which had escaped from its cage and was running around the car.

Friends, family members and even nurses expressed anger toward the driver, which King quickly quelled. She said she's saddened by Internet postings expressing bitterness and hostility toward the young woman and her gerbil.

"It never occurred to me to be angry," she said. "The only people allowed to be angry are Patrick and I, and the company. And none of us are angry, so they're wasting their time."

It's better this way, King said. She's glad she wasn't the one who hit someone.

"Physical pain I can heal from a lot easier than mental pain," she said.

King said she's encouraged by the family of 12-year-old Bridger Hunt, who have said they hold no malice for the man who created homemade fireworks that exploded and ripped into Bridger's side, hospitalizing him since July 24.

"I'm so grateful for their family," she said. "To never be angry meant a lot to me."

Jensen also sees the situation as an accident, spending his energy on recovery, not revenge.

While being taken to the hospital for treatment of compound fractures in his tibia and fibula, he rode in the same ambulance as the young driver, who was not seriously injured. She was not cited at the scene, although Springville police said city prosecutors are reviewing the case.

"She cried the whole way," Jensen said. "I don't recall her not bawling. She was really upset."

Jensen spent eight days in the hospital and five weeks at home in Spanish Fork on bed rest. He'll still be down until the swelling in his leg and foot goes down.

"I never expected to get injured that way," Jensen said, who regularly works with chain saws and tree trimmers and at great heights. "I think we probably pulled out the first-aid kit every week, but nothing you couldn't handle. Something big like this is crazy."

Crazy? Yes. Life-changing? Of course. But life-ending? Definitely not, King said.

"It happened," King said matter-of-factly. "She didn't mean to do it. We've all done stupid things in our car."

She reminds drivers to remember the power and potential of a car each time they get behind the wheel.

"Just because you've gotten away with it before," she said, "you're not always going to get away with it."

Jensen said he thinks young drivers could benefit from additional training, such as driving school or even studying to get a commercial driver's license, like he has.

"When you're driving, you hold people's lives in your hand," he said. "Even if it's your own, it's (your) responsibility to pay attention."

King and Jensen have talked a few times, asking about the other's injuries and worrying about their boss and his small tree-trimming company.

Their injuries have ended their full-time work as tree trimmers, and both are considering other options.

But King has stayed calm. Even in the emergency room and through six surgeries, King said she felt peace from the waist up, and knew she would be OK, even if she lost her leg.

"I don't think anybody else knew it," she said, smiling over at Ian, her husband of six months. "Maybe I should have mentioned it."

Ian King said he did his mourning while he waited beside his wife at the hospital, feeling utterly helpless for nearly three weeks.

"You have to learn to adapt," he said. "We can't change anything, just move forward."

After talking with a plastic surgeon, who explained her shattered bones and damaged tissue, the Kings made the decision that rather than deal with a deformed, slightly-less-than-useful left leg, they would amputate.

So Janna King's aunt and mom and her sister came to her hospital room at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, painted her toenails and said goodbye.

"We had a farewell to the leg," King said. "It was fun and sad at the same time."

The decision was easy and the surgery successful. But once the leg was gone, emotional and phantom pain set in, King said.

"You mourn," King said, choking up. "I still mourn. It's still a hard thing. There are days where I accept it and focus on good things ahead. Other days, I want my leg back."

She uses a wheelchair now or occasionally crutches, but by next week she should be sporting a C-leg.

It's a high-tech prosthetic with a microprocessor knee that works with hydraulic pistons in the "calf area" to make walking fairly normal. The leg and all hospital bills have been paid for by Worker's Compensation, which has been great, King and Jensen said.

King stays with her parents in Pleasant Grove during the week while her husband works in roofing, then they spend their weekends at their home in Orem.

The support of family and friends and even prayers of strangers have gotten King through, she said, and will continue to fuel her as she takes her next steps forward.

"My direction has changed," King said. "It doesn't mean the end of my life."


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