Calgary teen who lost leg in train-hopping accident urges safe play

Kennedy Rhodes, 15, is featured in a new video for War Amps Canada. As a part of its Play Safe program, she is telling her story in hopes of preventing other kids from playing in a way that could seriously injure them and change their lives forever.

Kennedy Rhodes tells her story in War Amps' latest Play Safe video

Kennedy Rhodes had to have her left leg amputated after trying to jump onto a CP Rail train at a Calgary railyard two years ago. (War Amps)

Kennedy Rhodes is a gold-medal winning wrestler and a track and field sprinter. But just two years ago, when she lost her left leg in an accident, the teen didn't know if she'd ever be able to do the things that now bring her so much joy.

Kennedy, 15, is featured in a new video for War Amps Canada. As a part of its Play Safe program, she is telling her story in hopes of preventing other kids from playing in a way that could seriously injure them and change their lives forever.

When Kennedy was 13, she and a friend went to a Calgary train yard to try a stunt her friend had done previously — train hopping. 

"It was something he'd done multiple times before, so I wasn't overly scared about it," she told The Homestretch on Thursday.

"What's kind of funny is earlier in the day I was too scared to walk across the top of a flat fence, so I thought I would do something like this to prove to myself that I'm not going to be scared of everything."

'My left leg got kicked under the wheels'

Kennedy said that upon arrival at the yard, a train was already on its way out. Her friend ran and jumped on a train car without incident. 

"But I was running alongside it and I grabbed on to the ladder on the side of the train car and it was going just a little too fast and it dragged me. Somehow my left leg got kicked under the wheels," she said.

"Roughly two train cars ran over my leg before I could pull it out from underneath."

Luckily, people nearby heard Kennedy yelling for help and called an ambulance. 

Kennedy said hopes her participation in the War Amps' new Play Safe video will help save the life of another child. (War Amps)

'No guarantee that I would keep my leg'

Recovery took months. Kennedy initially spent two weeks in the hospital, the first two days at Foothills, where they tried to save her leg. 

"I had a pin through my knee and my Achilles tendon, jut to try and keep it together and encourage it to heal," she said.

"But if we went that route, it would have taken me three to five years and 23 surgeries, and there was still no guarantee that I would keep my leg at the end of it all."

So, she made the decision to amputate her leg. 

'Walk off into the sunset'

When she was finally discharged from the hospital, Kennedy needed home care for three months — to help the stump wound heal — before she was ready to be fitted with her first prosthesis. 

"When I first got my leg I thought I could just walk off into the sunset, which is so not true," she said.

"It took a while for me to get used to the actual feeling of having a new prosthetic. When I first put it on, it felt like it was just dead weight that was there, which I was not used to."

But, despite these challenges, Kennedy said she decided early on that she was going to make the best of things. 

"The longer you're upset about something you can't change, you're just going to be upset for the rest of your life," she said. 

Kennedy stopped by to share her story with CBC's The Homestretch. (CBC)

'Trying to push myself'

Kennedy said that since her accident, she's been trying things that she hadn't even been interested in trying before. 

"Before my accident, I didn't like to do sports. I was too lazy to try and do any sort of exercise," she said. 

"But now that my accident has happened and I'm actually trying to push myself and challenge myself more, I'm on almost every sports team my school has."

In fact, she's since won the gold medal for her junior high's circuit in wrestling.

War Amps support

Kennedy said she's grateful for the support she's received from War Amps. 

"They introduced me to a whole bunch of other child amputees ... which is amazing, cause it's always nice to have someone else you can talk to who you can relate with," she said.

The organization has also helped her financially.

"Because of them, I have four different legs, which is kind of cool to think about," she said. 

Play Safe campaign

Kennedy said she hopes her role in the Play Safe campaign will help educate other kids.

"I'm not saying they have to be, like, on guard all the time, but just be cautious," she said. 

"Right before I was actually going to jump on the train, I didn't think about what could happen. I just didn't want to get caught by the CP rail police, I didn't want to get in trouble. I didn't think I could get really seriously hurt."

A new video produced by the War Amps of Canada called "PLAYSAFE: Don't let it happen to you" stars 15-year-old Kennedy Rhodes from Calgary. Kennedy lost her leg in a train accident two years ago. Now she's an ambassador for War Amps and she joined host Terri Campbell in studio. 7:35

Now she's reminding others to check their surroundings, be careful, and think things through before doing.

"Because if they think it's dangerous, it probably is," she said. 

And, if another kid ever does find themselves in a similar situation to Kennedy, she hopes to inspire them to have a positive outlook on life. 

"I've realized I've been able to spread the play safe message and save lives, just from talking to a school or two," she said.

"I would say, just try and take a negative and make it a positive because that will make everything so much easier and so much better to handle."


With files from Tracy Fuller and The Homestretch.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Lucie most recently headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson