It’s been a year since Dave Sallee wrecked his motorcycle after slamming his brakes when a deer jumped out of a ditch.
Life looks different now for the 60-year-old. While he lived through the accident, it cost him his right leg, which was amputated below the knee, The Hutchinson News.
Last summer, just days before the accident, David and his wife, Tawnya, met Wendy Junru Huang, who was on a six-month assignment as the Hutchinson News photo intern. The Sallee family was riding four wheelers on the sandy banks of the Arkansas River between Hutchinson and South Hutchinson when Huang noticed them. She asked the family of dirt-bike enthusiasts if she could photograph their story. They set up a date. But Tawnya had to cancel the photo shoot, explaining that Dave had an accident.
So the assignment changed. Instead of capturing a family whooping it up on their four wheelers, The News photographer followed Sallee through his recovery, capturing his story in photographs.
A psychiatric nurse, Dave worked the night shift for 20 years at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. A third-generation Harley Davidson rider, he lived to ride and often rode at night because of his work schedule.
Now 12 months later, he has adjusted so well to the prosthesis he doesn’t even use a handicapped parking sticker. He rides a Harley trike that has been specifically modified for him. But, the freedom of taking off at night, even with a buddy, hasn’t happened yet.
But, that’s mainly because his job has changed. He’s now working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Horizon Mental Health. He says it’s easier with his prosthesis to not stand on his leg for 12-hour shifts.
A year ago he was a night owl, who got in the way of a deer. After the accident there was the trauma of realizing doctors couldn’t save his lower leg because two of the three major arteries in his leg were cut in the accident and blood was not flowing into the limb. It had to be amputated.
“We were both, OK if this was what needed to be done,” Tawnya said.
Recovery took five months, and what he wanted to do once he got home was ride a four-wheeler. Without his prosthesis he slowly rode around their small horse farm north of Hutchinson. He still rides the dirt bike without the prosthesis because the rides created too much pounding and caused pain at the amputation site. He has since installed special shock absorbers on the quad to soften the pounding of off-road riding.
Looking back, Tawnya can see the accident was a little blip in the road for them. There have been no pity parties. Instead they gather together at their farm, where there is a dirt track, and the entire family goes four-wheeling. Every one of their kids rides four-wheelers, and Tawnya says it’s a requirement for anyone who wants to be part of the family.
Tawnya and Dave were married 11 years ago at Carey Park. They left the wedding on Dave’s Harley, with Tawnya’s long white wedding dress all tucked in under her when they took off. She knew she was marrying a guy with a passion for Harley Davidson.
“He has changed a lot for the better,” said Tawnya. “He is more grateful and has an appreciation for life in general.”
It’s the end of the day and Dave, lounging in his recliner, with his prosthesis next to the chair, turns to his wife and smiles.
“I’m a pretty tough old bird,” he said.
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