Leann Krayenhagen: Good Turn of Events Help Save Motorcyclist’s Life

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By Betta Ferrendelli

If serendipitous could be used to describe the day Leann Krayenhagen had a motorcycle accident and nearly lost her life, she might be inclined to use the word. She certainly knows she is lucky to be alive.

For years she was hesitant to purchase a motorcycle. After working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist with Northern Colorado Anesthesia Professionals for 14 years, she understood the risks, but she purchased a Harley-Davidson in 2010. "It was beautiful," she says. "Purple and white."

Krayenhagen, her husband Scot, and some friends were riding motorcycles through the Poudre Canyon to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to a friend's birthday party on a sunny afternoon on June 3, 2017, when Krayenhagen rounded a tight curve and thought she saw a deer. When she swerved sharply left, her right leg collided with a truck hauling lumber traveling in the opposite direction. The truck drove over Krayenhagen's bike and she landed between two rocks on a nearby embankment, her head pointed downhill. Her leg had been severed just below her knee, but she did not lose consciousness, a possible benefit of the slope keeping blood flowing to her brain. "It was the best way I could have landed because I was losing so much blood."

An emergency room physician and a trauma ICU nurse, who Krayenhagen knew and worked with, happened to be driving in separate cars behind the truck that hit her. They stopped, initiated an emergency call via a satellite radio, and helped stabilize her. Had it not been for the tourniquet they applied to her leg using an elastic exercise band and a tree branch, she would have bled out before she could be taken to a hospital. "It's what saved me. Without that tourniquet I would have died in less than ten minutes," says Krayenhagen, who was 54 years old at the time.

Because there was no cell phone service, a second call for help from a call box about two miles away initiated the rerouting of a nearby medical helicopter from another emergency. It arrived within five minutes and transported Krayenhagen to an ambulance waiting to take her to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland,  Colorado. There she underwent the first of seven surgeries that would ultimately lead to a transfemoral amputation.

A Sister-in-law's Advice

Krayenhagen spent three weeks in the hospital before she was transferred to Northern Colorado Rehabilitation Hospital. She was released from rehabilitation on July 8 and started the process of finding a prosthetist. She interviewed five prosthetists, each focusing on their own area of emphasis. "Each one was different," she says. "Some of them would focus on the socket, others would focus on the componentry."

It was Krayenhagen's sister-in-law, who sustained a transtibial amputation in 011, who knew the right questions to ask. "She told me you need to choose who you're going to go with based on the type of socket you're going to have," Krayenhagen remembers.

And she advised Krayenhagen to select an O&P facility that was close to home. "She told me, ‘They need to be local; they need to be close by because you're going to need lots of adjustments,'" Krayenhagen says.

An Adjustable Socket

One name kept coming up in the course of Krayenhagen's search for an O&P facility: Quorum Prosthetics in Windsor, about two miles from her home, and where her sister-in-law also goes for care. The first time Krayenhagen and her husband talked with Joe Johnson, CP, CEO of Quorum, he asked her what she wanted to do. "I told him I want to hike and ride a bike again." He said, "You can do that." She says it was Johnson who helped her realize there are no limits when it comes to life after injury and rehabilitation.

Krayenhagen started going to Quorum for care in the fall of 2017. She began working with Brendan Tuchowski, MSOP, CPO, and shortly after Christmas was fitted with the Quatro socket, which was designed by Quorum and patented in 2018. The Quatro is a compression socket system designed specifically for individuals with transfemoral and transhumeral amputations. With three RevoFit adjustable dials and three independently adjustable zones on the socket, it eliminates the need for socks as the wearer can dial in or out to control the volume and compression of the socket as the limb expands and contracts during the day. The socket also allows for easier donning and doffing. Johnson says the Quatro is "a new twist on a great design" referring to the patented HiFi Interface and Imager Systems by biodesigns, Westlake Village, California, that had previously designed a socket with similar properties. Quorum has been a licensed partner with biodesigns since 2012.

To date, Quorum has been able to fit and deliver more than 50 Quatro sockets to patients, Tuchowski says.

The main challenge with the Quatro is learning how tight to wear the socket, Tuchowski says. "A person's residual limb is always changing and fluctuating in volume," he says. "I cannot give precise instructions saying to turn the dial three times in the morning, three more times at lunch, and four times before dinner. Every patient is different and must learn what tightness works for them and when they need to tighten the device. The Boa dials allow for micro- adjustments and make it easy and intuitive for the patients to adjust."

Krayenhagen says she likes the dial features on the socket and has also found it to be useful when she sits for longer stretches of time. "When I sit down for longer periods, I can actually loosen the knobs, which takes pressure off my leg, and it is a lot more comfortable."

Krayenhagen wore the Quatro until the fall of 2018 when she had to have more reconstructive surgery, her first surgery since leaving the hospital after her accident. She says she won't be able to wear the socket until she fully heals. Quorum put her in a temporary socket until the swelling in her leg reduces and she can go back to the Quatro, which she is eagerly anticipating. "I literally had to start over last year," she says. "Now that I have had a chance to wear a temporary socket, I can tell you there is no comparison."

Krayenhagen has worked hard to overcome the obstacle of learning to walk again, Tuchowski says. "She has spent countless hours at physical therapy relearning how to walk and strengthening to be able to walk. This is not counting all the hours she spent at home working by herself. She has had to overcome issues with her residual limb as well, dealing with bone spurs that caused socket fit issues. She has worked through everything with a positive attitude that has helped her persevere."

A New Road

Though Krayenhagen had to leave her job as a nurse anesthetist because of her injuries, she has moved onto other things; she started playing her guitar and driving again.

"That little bit of freedom is amazing," she says. Riding her own motorcycle, however, is out. Her goal is to ride on the back of her husband's bike before this summer is over.

She also spends time on public speaking. She was a guest speaker for UCHealth, which hosts "Stop the Bleed," an interactive training program where participants learn how to give first aid until first responders can arrive and take over.

She and her husband credit a lot of what happened the day of her accident to their collective faith in God. Scot Krayenhagen was at the beginning of the caravan the day of the accident and he didn't see his wife swerve in front of the truck. He didn't realize the loud sound he had heard was the accident. But when Scot tried reaching his wife via their two-way radio headsets and there was no answer, he turned around.

When the helicopter took Krayenhagen away, it took Scot more than an hour to get to the hospital in Loveland. "I really thought I wasn't going to see her again," he says. "God gave us so many miracles that day."

Betta Ferrendelli can be contacted at betta@opedge.com.