KARE 11: Minneapolis mugging victim now helping other amputees

By Renee Tessman, KARE 11


MINNEAPOLIS — Rob Rieckenberg was walking along the tracks that run under Washington Avenue in downtown Minneapolis about four-an-a-half years ago when his life changed forever. Rieckenberg said, “I was wrong place wrong time.”

He was taking a shortcut from a pizza place to a friend’s loft when he said, “Apparently somebody wanted my watch and wallet a little more than I wanted it and I got mugged and got left on the train tracks in Minneapolis and got hit by a train.”

It wasn’t until just over an hour later that a couple of train conductors found him unconscious and bleeding. Doctors say his femoral artery had been severed and he should have died within minutes. But for some reason, it clotted.

Rieckenberg doesn’t remember any of it. Police told him he was hit from behind.

He makes light of it now, and said when he woke up in a hospital room, “the only thing wrong was my leg was gone and I had sixty staples in my head. You know that was it.”

Now he has a prosthetic leg over which he wears a tattoo sleeve.

But while he handles it all with a smile now, the truth is, transitioning to life as an amputee was tough.

He said, “They don’t tell you anything at the hospital. Where do I go? What do I do? What’s next?”

With his family’s help, Rieckenberg is now an insurance agent who goes downhill skiing, golfing and skydiving.

He eventually used his experience to help a friend of a friend, Aaron Holm, who lost both legs a few years ago while trying to help a co-worker change a tire on Interstate 394.

Rieckenberg said Holm would often say to friends and family, “Hey wiggle your toes for me. I’m going into surgery.”

Then in December of 2008, Holm asked Rieckenberg to help him start a non-profit to help other new amputees make the transition. He called it Wiggle Your Toes. And it’s been going strong now since December of 2009.

Rieckenberg said, “Right now we have ten peers, other amputees that we work with that will talk with people who have become amputees.”

Wiggle Your Toes also helps amputees with their homes. He said, “Whether it be putting a ramp in or widening the door jambs, fixing their shower so its handicapped accessible.”

And with his positive outlook, Rieckenberg shows Wiggle Your Toes clients that becoming an amputee doesn’t really have to change who you are at all.

He said, “I still do it all. I just do it a little slower.”

See Full Story at KARE 11