"I know that God will take care of us and we do what we can to move forward," said Wendy Lee of Badger, Minnesota
ROSEAU, Minn. — Just for a moment, imagine all of the things you do each day with your legs. Now imagine you only have one leg. How would you get along?
For one northern Minnesota woman, it became reality. And then another shocking event happened: she lost her other leg.
Wendy Lee is nothing if not a survivor. Just as she was getting used to her new normal, life with a prosthetic leg, fate dealt her another round.
Throw in the recent loss of the family dairy operation, insurance worries and what happens next you wouldn’t be alone in wondering how she keeps it all together.
But through it all, Wendy is getting stronger and has a positive attitude that just won’t stop.
Wendy is using every last ounce of her upper body strength just to try and stand up on one prosthetic leg. It’s a motion that most of us take for granted.
She hits her goal of 10 seconds but with a lot of help.
The rural Badger, Minnesota woman has been through hell and back, twice, over the course of a year and a half.
Her story almost too unbelievable to be true. But she has lived it, every last excruciating detail, with her husband of nearly 18 years, Stacey, by her side.
“Still here. And whatever is thrown at us we’ll get through it,” says Wendy with her husband, Stacey, by her side.
To understand where they are now, we have to go back to the summer of 2018 and a scare with her foot.
“I had stepped down I heard a crack I felt pain but thought it was nothing.”
But it was. Wendy’s foot was broken and started to swell under the arch. Then one day it busted open.”
“And it was wet and I’m like ‘Oh, I think I better go to the Emergency Room.'”
They gave Wendy some antibiotics, set up an MRI and sent her home. Two days later an answer came.
“They considered it osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the bone.”
The bone was not only broken and infected, it had spread to other bones in her foot. The options included having those bones removed with part of the foot or…
“Amputate. So I chose to amputate because it was the quicker way to recovery, quicker way to get a prosthesis on this side.”
She was admitted to LifeCare and had a bad reaction to an antibiotic. Her kidneys went from full function to just 7 percent in four days.
“They tried to flush my kidneys here, I ended up gaining 33 pounds of fluid.”
Wendy was moved to Grand Forks and a treatment that caused her to lose 34 pounds in three and a half days. When her kidneys were at 40 percent, her doctor took action.
“So i had my leg amputated on August 21 of 2018.”
Wendy soon had her prosthetic leg and learned how to get around with the help of a walker. By mid-winter she was walking with a cane and everything was good until last Halloween 2019. That’s when a callus on her good remaining leg suddenly changed color.
“I think something’s wrong.”
She asked her husband Stacy to remove her sock.
“He took the sock off and that callus was black, half of my foot was red.”
They immediately left their Badger farm heading back to LifeCare in Roseau which transported her by ambulance to Grand Forks.
“By the time I got there the redness was half-way up my leg / they took an X-ray of the bottom of my foot and they said we think it’s flesh eating bacteria.”
Wendy believes fall flooding conditions are to blame.
“We have flood water around our farm at the time and maybe my dog ran through it and brought some of that water in the house and maybe my sock got a little wet on the bottom and seeped through maybe a crack in that spot. It’s one of those fluke things.”
Her doctor in Grand Forks determined that it was indeed flesh eating bacteria and an operation was needed within the hour to save her life.
“They decided to amputate and they took the skin from just below the knee down.”
Yes. For the second time in just over a year, Wendy underwent a leg amputation making her a bilateral amputee. She was moved back to LifeCare in Roseau in mid-December. She is going through rehab each day and making progress.
“She is one strong person to go through so many surgeries back to back and stuff and always positive about everything you know,” said Stacey Lee.
As if losing both legs wasn’t enough, Wendy and her husband have also had to endure the loss of their dairy operation a couple of years ago.
Wendy said, “The milk checks weren’t large enough and the bills were getting bigger and everything was starting to break down.”
Stacey took at job at Intercept Industries in Roseau mounting tires for Polaris and Arctic Cat ATV’s.
“It’s very different. You go from being your own boss working with animals to working with co-workers, it’s always interesting,” said Stacey
They have insurance thanks to his job, but it doesn’t always cover everything. So the couple also faces financial strain.
“I know that God will take care of us and we do what we can to move forward,” said Wendy.
From becoming a double amputee, to dealing with insurance issues and the loss of her dairy cows one thing remains: her positive attitude.
Her ability to crack a joke and laugh might be the best medicine.
“You know he should have talked more,” laughs Wendy.
“You did a good job,” said a laughing Stacey.
Wendy hopes to go home soon. As you can imagine, the bills are piling up.
There is a GoFundMe page here that is accepting donations or you can send a check or drop off a donation at Border State Bank in Badger.
Border State Bank
202 South Main Street
Badger, Minnesota 56714