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“This man literally put my right leg back together again”—Reno musician reflects on accident that almost killed him

Jammal Tarkington was both very lucky and very unlucky one summer night six years ago. 

On August 14, 2014, Tarkington was cruising around Midtown Reno on one of his vintage Vespas when he was hit by a truck. The driver, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, walked away from the scene after running over the 41-year old man and breaking most of the bones on the right side of his body. This was exceedingly unlucky, to say the least.

The orthopedic surgeon on call that night in the Renown ER was Dr. Richard Mullins of Great Basin Orthopaedics (GBO). This proved to be very lucky for Tarkington.

The extensive injuries Tarkington sustained included a compound fracture of his lower right leg, a broken right hip, a broken right femur, extensive damage to the right knee, a broken right wrist, and a compound fracture of his right arm. The sheer number of injuries was staggering, but most frightening for Tarkington, a music teacher and sax player for the Reno-based band Keyser Soze, were the arm and wrist injuries. His life and his livelihood were at risk.

That night, during an eight-hour surgery, Dr. Mullins put Tarkington back together again. “The first three and half hours were spent just cleaning up his body,” recounts Mullins. “There was so much gravel and dirt in his wounds. Then the real work began.”

Tarkington is a large man, 6’2”, 290 pounds, who played sports throughout his youth. That size and strength—along with the helmet he wore—were key to him surviving the incident and recovering so well.  

With his arm in a cast and his leg in a locked brace, Tarkington was confined to a wheelchair for a few months before starting physical therapy to rehabilitate the hip and leg. His arm and wrist healed quickly. For the following two years, he saw Dr. Mullins every month to evaluate his progress. In 2016, Tarkington had a second surgery to further repair his knee, the most damaged part of his body from the accident. He continues with physical therapy to this day. 

“This man literally put my right leg back together again,” says Tarkington. “He is an amazing doctor and I cannot thank him enough for how he helped me get back on my feet.”

Today, Tarkington has his mobility back. He can do most of the things he loves—hiking, biking, fly fishing—but he isn’t running any races. He has a lot of hardware in his body. He’s also back to playing, recording and teaching music. Pre-pandemic, he’d been touring with Keyser Soze in Asia and Europe and DJing in South America.

The driver was caught, convicted (with the help of testimony from Dr. Mullins), and served a five-year sentence. While Tarkington has been managing his recovery for more than five years, he considers himself lucky—lucky to be alive and to be enjoying life once again.