Monday, June 13, 2011

Farm safety should be top of mind -- learn from me!

It has been a few days since I last wrote a new post.  I've been on the go running my daughter to end-of-school-year events as well as helping her prepare for a 4-H cattle show that was held last weekend. 

Now that school is out, I am reminded of the frequent summer time farm accidents that can often occur.  In church recently, someone said, "Let's be mindful to pray for our families as they begin their summer activities."  It is so easy to think about summer time fun, but so often we forget about being careful, too.  Not only should we be smart when it comes to camping, swimming, biking and baseball/softball activities, we shouldn't forget about what can happen on the farm. 

Tractors, silos, animals, gates, latches, power tools...while it is easy to go about our daily activities on the farm, we need to remember that we can't be complacent that nothing will ever happen.  I am a prime example of this statement.   

One of my nine lives?
Two years ago while setting up our cattle grooming chute, I experienced one of my worst farm accidents.  That's involved me!  As much as I've preached to my daughter and my 4-H members about being careful when it comes to working on the farm, I should have been looking in the mirror telling this to myself. 

I've been very lucky over the years when it comes to staying safe on the farm.  I have had a few close calls, though, especially as a kid.  When I was nine, I nearly cut off my thumb when a pocket knife folded back on me as I was opening a feed bag (knives didn't have the safety locks like they do now).  Then there was the time my flannel shirt got caught in the PTO shaft on the tractor and ripped a huge whole in it.  How can I forget the time when I was sled riding down the barn bank and my sled turned backwards, forcing me back first into the bumper of our old Impala.  I thought I broke my back, but because of all of the winter clothes I was wearing, they padded the blow.  It still hurt like the dickens, though! 

I will never forget skidding on a slick spot of mud while rounding the corner of the house on our Honda 50 trail bike (with no helmet on).  The cycle landed on my leg while it was folded back under me.  Luckily enough, other than a sprained muddy leg, I was unscathed.  I still don't know how the muffler didn't tattoo a burn on me. 

And, the one that sticks in my mind the most was when I about 13 years old and I was bringing the tractor and manure spreader back down the road after unloading the spreader in one of our fields on the hill.  I was going way too fast coming down the road and couldn't slow down the tractor without it and the spreader swerving every time I'd hit the brakes.  Dad always told me to take it slow.  But did I listen?  Of course not...I decided to press it a little.  I was rushing so I could get done with my chores.  The feeling of no control on the tractor was horrible.  I soon passed our farm's driveway screaming for help.  I just remember the anxiety of whizzing by my dad and our hired hand who were running after me.  No one could help me at this point.  I was fearful that a car was going to pull out in front of me as I passed a side road.  Finally, as I started to go up a slight incline in the road at my neighbor's dairy farm, the tractor and the spreader started to coast and I was able to get them under control.  When I finally came to a stop, I remember breaking down in tears.  How I didn't flip that tractor with me on it is beyond me.  I truly believe divine intervention had something to do with it.

Grooming chutes hurt when they fall on you
But as for the grooming chute incident two years ago, this was a different story.  This was my closest call yet and I hope my last.  As we were lifting up (unfolding) the two ends of the chute, the front end slipped out my my husband's hands just as I happened to bend down to straighten up the chute's mat while I was still holding up the back end of the chute.  The front end nailed me right in the head at full force.  It hit me so fast, I honestly didn't know what happened.  I remember right before it happened, my husband yelled, "Look out!"  Although he tried, he wasn't able to stop it in time.  When the front part of the chute hit me, I saw a few stars (just like in the cartoons) and could feel immediate pain on the left side of my head.  I do remember screaming for help.  In a frenzy, my husband (who felt horrible at what just happened) gathered me up off of the barn floor and put me in the truck -- manure covered and all.  Off to the emergency room we went. Fortunately, the ER is only five minutes from our farm.

When I got to the hospital, my husband checked me in.  He said to the ER registration lady:  "My wife is down here on the floor....she was hit in the head by a metal pipe!"  Well, this probably wasn't the best description of what happened and it just about got him in trouble.  His explanation did, however, make for a quick reaction to the medical team, as two nurses immediately ran out to get me into a wheelchair when they saw me sitting on the floor with a head bleed.  Of course, Sam had to be questioned after his response as to why I was there in the first place, as you can imagine.  Once our stories were confirmed as a match, he was then able to come on back to my ER room.  We joke about it now, but I imagine at the time he was worried he might have to post bail!   

Unsure of whether I had any neck injuries, the ER team quickly put me into a neck brace as a precaution.  After going through a series of CAT scans, the nurses and doctors came to the conclusion that I have one hard head!  Fortunately, other than just a cut on the outside of my head from where a bolt slightly penetrated the skin, I had no skull fractures.  Two hours later, I was released.  Once again, luck was on my side.

Here I am in 2009 in the emergency room following a farm accident.
But while I was in the ER, I made my husband take a picture of me in my raunchy state.  While it is not a very flattering picture of me at all, I  wanted to share it with you as a reminder to think safety first.  Innocent mishaps can occur so fast, as I experienced first hand. 

Be safe out there everyone!  Trust me, you don't want to end up like me in this picture.  By the way, I also learned that you shouldn't mess with a chute mat until the entire chute is put together correctly and set with lock pins.  I learned the hard way!