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IMPATIENCE CAN KILL PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 16 March 2015 09:16
“The day started out like any other day.” This is how Kristy McKee starts the story that would end with two frightened children, her husband airlifted to London and herself sidelined from an accident that severely damaged Jason (Chunk) McKee’s right shin and forced him to give up dairy farming.
It was a busy year, busy month, busy day when the accident happened on September 29, 2012. Chunk was working long hours trying to finish the harvest, his dad was due for surgery the next week, and Kristy was swamped helping in the barn, feeding the men, and keeping three children under the age of five happy.
“Being a farmer, the boys hadn’t seen Chunk a lot. He came into the house and the boys wanted to hang out with their dad,” remembers Kristy. “He was happy to take them so I kept the one-year-old and he took the three and five-year-old into the tractor. I headed out to Owen Sound to get coffee and donuts.”
While driving to town, she saw fire trucks flying by. Her cell phone rang. No one answered. Then an ambulance whipped by. Her phone rang again. It was the farm hand. “There’s been an accident”, he said.
Kristy thought it was one of the boys but the farm hand said, “No, it’s Chunk. He’s caught in the harvestor.”
Thinking fast, Kristy told him she’d meet them at the Owen Sound hospital but the farm hand said: “He won’t be going to Owen Sound, he’ll be flying somewhere.”
Kristy wheeled her vehicle around and followed another fire truck back to their dairy farm near Keady. She found a safe place for her one-year-old then attempted to walk to the field. A volunteer tried to hold her back.
“To hell with that,” she told the volunteer. However, reason set in and she accepted the advice of multiple volunteers who advised her not to view the scene.
“I never saw the accident. But my three and five year old sons heard and saw what went on.”
At this point in their presentation to farmers at the Grey-Bruce Farmer’s Week, Chunk took over the story to share his experience getting caught in a corn harvestor.
“There was a lot of down corn in the field and I was stressed out trying to get everything done in a short period of time,” remembers Chunk.
The harvestor kept plugging up and the reverse option on it was broken. Leaving his boys in the tractor, Chunk jumped out and decided to physically loosen the plug by kicking the corn into the head.
The machine was still running.
“I kicked at it once. That didn’t work, so I kicked it in again,” says Chunk. “This time the gathering chains pulled my boot in and the feed rolls chewed a good chunk of my shin out.”
He wasn’t far from the knives when his other leg got pulled into the gathering chains. Any further and Chunk wouldn’t be alive to tell his story. Thankfully, the slip-clutch blew, stopping the head.
It all happened in less than 10 seconds but in that time, Chunk said his thoughts were as clear as day.
“I thought this is it.” He believed he was going right through the machine. “What will happen to the kids? What will happen to the farm? My thoughts were as clear as if I was sitting down and writing them all out.”
His boys saw it all. Chunk remembered thinking he didn’t want them to see the pieces of flesh from his leg on the feed rollers. He scooped them up with his hand and tossed them into the field.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of having my own flesh in my hand.”
Luckily, both Chunk’s father and a farm hand were in the field with wagons and heard him screaming and hollering. They immediately called 911 and waited, unsure how to get Chunk out of the corn head.
The firefighters didn’t know either.
“They were excellent but they didn’t have a lot of experience pulling farmers out of corn heads,” chuckles Chunk. He remained in the machine for 45 minutes while they tried using the Jaws of Life and exhausted all ideas how to get him out.
Finally, someone suggested putting a pipe wrench on the shaft and reversing the rollers to free his leg.
“They did that except they didn’t know which way to turn. They turned the wrong way. There was another yell!”
Once they turned the right way, Chuck’s leg came loose and that’s when the pain hit.
“It was pain like I have never felt in my life. It felt like my leg was going to fall off.”
Chunk says he remembers every bump on the road in the ambulance, which was rushing him to Owen Sound to meet the helicopter that would take him to London.
Once safely strapped in the helicopter, Chunk was finally injected with painkillers. Once the medication kicked in, that’s when he really started to “lose my shit”, recalls Chunk.
“It just hit so hard, what had all happened.”
He tried to gather himself but Chunk says until he arrived at the hospital and saw Kristy, he was terrified.
“When I finally saw her, I started to feel better. When I saw her I realized it didn’t matter if I lost my legs. At least I had my family.”
In the hospital, he underwent several surgeries over a week’s time to repair extensive damage to the muscles, ligaments and tendons on his right shin. Doctor’s weren’t convinced the leg could be saved because farm accidents are also dirty accidents, infecting the injury with soil and dirt. Fortunately, the surgeries were successful and while Chunk’s leg is weak, thin and severely scarred, he can walk, two years later, without a limp.
However, there have been repercussions.
Due to the lack of tendons, Chunk falls a lot. The leg just isn’t strong enough to bear his weight for long periods of time. There is only one millimetre of skin covering his shin bone so he has chronic pain, expecially in colder weather. And his leg is so thin, socks won’t stay up.
A bump to his shin will elicit an involuntary yell but strangely, his present pain centres on his foot. The nerves are so jumbled he’s had to relearn where to scratch.
“The tendon and nerve damage is so severe that I’d have an itch on the top of my foot but when I scratched there, the itch didn’t go away.” says Chunk. “It took me a few days to figure out that the itch isn’t there. It’s on my leg but I feel it on my foot. I had to learn where to scratch, essentially.”
The long recovery time, chronic pain and leg weakness forced the couple to make the decision to sell the cows and quota.
“He would  never be able to do the milking with all that standing on cement,” says Kristy. They have accepted this life change although Chunk says he really misses the milk cheque! Adaptation has been easier since Chunk still raises Holstein heifers, calving them out and selling the dams fresh.
Kristy explains this wasn’t just Chunk’s accident because it affected the whole family. The little boys who witnessed their dad getting stuck in the machine needed professional counselling.
It’s a frightening subject for them still.
“They don’t want to remember it or talk about it,” says Kristy. They do, however, look at the leg a lot.
She has lingering issues about the accident as well. “I was so frustrated because nobody would give me any information. I really wanted to see him,” she says.
Later, Chunk told her he had asked the firefighters and volunteers to keep her away because he didn’t want that to be the last sight, or memory, she had of him.
It’s something none of them will ever forget. Chunk immortalized the memory on his arm, getting a tattoo of a corn harvester on his left forearm with the words ‘Not Today’, across it.
The accident changed their approach to work and family. They treasure time together more and work? Well, if something doesn’t get done today, there is always tomorrow.
“I don’t try to cram three days of work into one anymore,” says Chunk. “It used to really stress me out, not getting stuff done. Not anymore.”
Kristy is thankful her husband is alive to be a father to their three sons. “It could have been so much worse,” she sighs.
Still, it changed their life and if there’s one thing she wants other farmers to think about, it’s this: “the quickest way is not always the best way.”
Slow down. Pause. Think. “It may take longer but you will be safe and not have to deal with something like this down the road.” ◊
SLOW DOWN: IMPATIENCE NEARLY COSTS JASON MCKEE HIS LIFE
By Lisa B. Pot
“The day started out like any other day.” This is how Kristy McKee starts the story that would end with two frightened children, her husband airlifted to London and herself sidelined from an accident that severely damaged Jason (Chunk) McKee’s right shin and forced him to give up dairy farming.
It was a busy year, busy month, busy day when the accident happened on September 29, 2012. Chunk was working long hours trying to finish the harvest, his dad was due for surgery the next week, and Kristy was swamped helping in the barn, feeding the men, and keeping three children under the age of five happy.
Read more...
 
WHAT TO DO UNTIL HELP ARRIVES PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 16:05
Saving time is crucial in the case of a medical emergency or farm accident.
Kevin McNab, operations manager with Grey County EMS gave tips on what do do until help arrives, when he spoke at Grey-Bruce Farmers’ Week in January.
If you come upon an emergency, call 911 immediately. An emergency call can always be cancelled but time can make the difference between life and death and emergency workers need to act as quickly as possible. Treatments available are all based upon time frames.
If the patient is going to need care at a trauma centre, an ORNGE air ambulance will be needed to tranport the patient to hospitals in London or Toronto. It takes the air ambulance about 35 minutes to reach a site in Grey or Bruce so time is of the essence.
Know your address. If possible call from a land line. If you’re calling from a cell phone give the fire number of the property and the nearest crossroads.
Call back when you have more information available.
Before offering assistance to the victim, first make sure to protect yourself and others, McNab said. “Don’t become a patient yourself.” Check for electrical, chemical, or ground hazards, noxious or toxic gases, fire, unstable equipment and buildings or loose animals.
Once you know it’s safe, prompt care that is provided prior to the arrival of the paramedics can mean the difference between life and death or between full or partial recovery.
• Stay calm yourself.
• Have the victim remain still and limit movement.
• Hold his or her head in neutral position.
• Control any bleeding by applying pressure.
• Stabilize fractures by holding the limb.
• Give nothing by mouth.
• If person vomits, turn the patient on their side, keeping body in neutral alignment.
• Reassure the patient, telling them that help is on the way.
If there are others present to help, send someone to the road to direct emergency services to the patient. Clear a path to the patient so emergency vehicles can get directly to the patient.
Once the professionals have arrived and taken over, those who have helped in an emergency situation may have ongoing emotional issues, McNab said. Symptoms may include:
• Crying for no apparent reason
• Difficulty making decisions
• Difficulty sleeping
• Disbelief, shock, irritability, anger, disorientation, apathy, emotional numbing, sadness and depression
• Excessive drinking or drug use
• Fear and anxiety about the future
• Feeling powerless
• Flashbacks
• Headaches and stomach problems
If you have strong feelings that won’t go away or you are troubled for more than four to six weeks, seek professional help, McNab advised.◊
WHAT TO DO UNTIL HELP ARRIVES
Saving time is crucial in the case of a medical emergency or farm accident.
Kevin McNab, operations manager with Grey County EMS gave tips on what do do until help arrives, when he spoke at Grey-Bruce Farmers’ Week in January.
Read more...
 
Farm Safety PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 March 2010 12:54
When your workplace involves the hazards that day-to-day farm work provides, your life can be ended, or altered forever, in a split second.
For Susan and Larry Galbraith of Tara, former cow/calf farm operators, that split second occurred on July 22, 2008.
That day “marked the beginning of a nightmare that has basically represented no chance of us ever waking up from,” Susan told an audience attending the Beef Day at Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week in Elmwood in January.
“I went to work that day only to come home and find my spouse trapped on the tractor and critically injured, fighting for his life.”
In an emotional plea for farmers to work safely that moved some in the audience to tears, she recalled that Larry had been moving large round bales from the front field when one of them rolled down the arms of the loader and over him. He was crushed down into a nine-inch-wide spot between the steering column and the base of the seat.
Emergency crews extricated him and he was taken to Owen Sound hospital before being airlifted to London where the full extent of his injuries became known. The doctors catalogued the damage for the anxious family: second and third-degree burns to his chest; a fractured sternum; nine broken ribs; a punctured and collapsed right lung; lacerated spleen with internal bleeding; fractured T11-12 vertebrae; fractured C6-7 vertebrae; severe c-spine dislocation that would first have to be realigned before surgery could take place to stabilize his broken neck.
That latter injury would require a three-day wait with 35 pounds of weight attached to a halo screwed into his skull before surgery could be done. Then there was six hours of surgery to repair his neck.
The good news from doctors was that Larry was very lucky to be alive because most people with this kind of injuries don’t live more than a half-hour from the time of the accident.
The bad news was that he would never walk again.
“Accidents like Larry’s never have good outcomes,” Susan told the audience. “We have discovered there are only bad outcomes, and worst-case scenarios where the victim simply dies. This has simply opened a whole new world of misery for us to endure. The combination of events on that day have meant that we are in a world where we are now farm statistics and poster children for what farm accidents do to the victims and their families.
“The accident now consumes every part of our lives. All the things we took for granted before are gone.”
After his surgery Larry went to London’s Parkwood Rehabilitation Hospital for therapy. He entered the hospital with high hopes he would have some recovery of use in either his arms or his legs. As time went by that hope has slowly slipped away.
“We have given up hopes to retire any place exotic, to spend time with our grandchildren or take up hobbies,” Susan explained.
The side effects of the stress this kind of accident puts on people is that often couples can’t deal with it and many marriages end in divorce. Not the Galbraiths.
“Larry and I decided early on while still in the trauma unit at Victoria Hospital to renew our vows and accept whatever was coming,” Susan said. “His fragile condition is always at the forefront of any decisions we now make together. We know that because of his injury his lifespan has been shortened greatly. This has been something that has been hard for our kids and his mother to accept.”
There have been huge financial ramifications for the family. Before he could come home from Parkwood there was a long list of alterations that had to be made to the house, and equipment that had to be purchased. The house had to be made wheelchair accessible which required a ramp, wider doors and different flooring. They needed a ceiling lift, a hospital bed with a specialized air mattress. They needed an electric wheel chair and a disability van to allow that chair to go on board so Larry could be driven from place to place.
And he required 24-hour-a-day care, because he had no movement from his chest downward.
Susan describes the cost as astronomical. An electric wheel chair costs $21,000. Disability vans start at $75,000. The ceiling lift, $5,000; the bed and mattress, $6,000.
As she looked into buying this equipment necessary to get Larry home, Susan discovered there wasn’t much funding available because she was working.
The accident left Larry with lung problems and breathing issues due to recurrent pneumonia so he requires medications, some of which cost as much as $3,300 a month. In this case, working helped because her drug plan picked up the cost, but she wonders what happens for those who don’t have that coverage.
There were also no programs that helped pay for the required 24-hour care. Susan hired two people who come in to look after Larry while she’s not present. They’ve been trained to do all the procedures that need to be carried out: catheterizations five times a day, administering inhaled medications, and, more recently, suctioning via tracheostomy.
All of Susan’s paycheque from the  South Bruce Grey Health Centre in Chesley goes to pay for this additional help. They end up living on Larry’s disability pension.
The accident devastated their farming operation and all the hard work they had plowed into the farm for years went down the drain.
“We reluctantly sold all the cattle and rented the farm land out to a neighbour,” Susan explained. “This broke both our hearts but logically it was going to be too much time away from the house (for me to do the chores) and Larry cannot be left alone. When the cattle left, I cried — but everything makes me cry now.”
Susan said she was willing to relive the horrors of what had happened to her family by speaking to the audience  to remind farmers and their families they must be constantly vigilant when working around machinery. Even if they are normally safety-oriented it takes only seconds for disaster to strike — and then it’s too late.
“No one should have to stumble through this maze like I did, and the saddest part is that I can’t change anything, and I live with huge guilt all the time because I asked my husband to do one seemingly simple job that anyone who farms does anyway,” she said. “Believe me when I say it can happen to you, and when it does your whole world will never be the same.
“I know I will be a widow long before I need to be, but if I can stop it from happening to someone else, then it will be worth it to have stood here and told you my story.”◊
LIVES CHANGED FOREVER BY A SPLIT-SECOND ACCIDENT
When your workplace involves the hazards that day-to-day farm work provides, your life can be ended, or altered forever, in a split second.
For Susan and Larry Galbraith of Tara, former cow/calf farm operators, that split second occurred on July 22, 2008.
Read more...