My husband had made a contract for January delivery of corn to a local ethanol plant. Knowing the forecast, he planned ahead the night before and plugged in the 4020 that he would use to run the grain into the semi. In the morning, when he tried to start it, it was still too cold. So he decided to jump-start it, a task he had done plenty of times before in his 10+ years of farming.
Only this time, things didn’t go as normal. When he attached the cables, well, all he remembers was a little flame. The battery suddenly exploded in his face. He started to scream in pain, but it was at his Dad’s place, and as is usually the case, nobody was around to hear him. His next thought was to call for help. He ripped off his gloves and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. However, his glasses had been blown off and he was shaking and couldn’t make out any of the numbers. So, still screaming, he thought he would try to rinse his eyes and began to walk to the shed. Only, it was -40 degrees and, instead of walking toward a building, he was walking toward an open field.
Do you believe in luck? Well, we don’t, and at that moment, God sent Joe’s dad to save him. Upon driving up, Dave spotted Joe immediately and threw him into his pick-up and took off for the ER.
I, meanwhile, was at home caring for our 2-year-old and cleaning the house for expected guests that evening. I was also 6 months pregnant. Joe’s dad called me and said that he had just brought Joe to the ER for an eye accident. I clearly remember him saying, “It’s really bad. It’s really bad.”
I rushed to town and when I first saw my husband of 4 years, the head of our family, and the love of my life, laying on the hospital bed, the first thing I selfishly thought of was that I would be caring for a blind man for the rest of my days. Special instruments were over his eyes to flush away any battery acid. Yet, when I spoke to him and he spoke back, I felt a calmness about us.
In no time at all, we had people praying for Joe from coast to coast. Once they finished flushing his eyes and cleaning him up (I remember us laughing as Joe told the nurse that cutting off his favorite shirt seemed a little extreme), we were off to Sioux Falls to visit an eye surgeon.
Later that day, Dr. Vanden Bosch did some fairly extensive stitching on Joe’s left eyeball, to repair tears from the force of the explosion. The doctor, upon finishing, came out to explain to us what he had all done by drawing it on a whiteboard. He thought that Joe’s eyeglasses (which we never did find) probably saved his vision. It seemed unreal. He also said he “fixed up some areas on his face” which seemed terrifying at first, but I soon decided that if a guy is qualified to stitch on an eye, he can probably do a decent job on a face as well. Some small pieces of the black plastic enclosing the battery had done a bit of damage.
He explained to us that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that eye injuries heal slowly, and thus typically take the time to do so correctly. The bad news was also that eye injuries heal slowly, and he couldn’t really promise us anything at that point.
We filled 4 different eye drop prescriptions and Joe was housebound for a little while. He was absolutely going crazy, because both reading and watching TV were non-options. Vince thought it was fantastic, a playmate at his beck and call.
Fast forward 7 years and oodles of doctor’s appointments and one more minor surgery, and today you would never know it if you saw him. His left eye is still very sensitive to bright sunlight and I know where a small scar is on his face.
But something HAS changed, and that’s the point. Joe’s eye accident certainly taught us that, at certain times… “It’s just not worth it.” Don’t get me wrong, we don’t live our lives in fear of what could happen but there are times when his accident puts things into perspective. Using a repaired or compromised log-chain to pull out a vehicle? “It’s not worth it.” Sending my kids on a fun trip with Grandpa a few weeks ago when the weather was similarly cold? “It’s not worth it.” Leaning across a heifer to administer a vaccine while pregnant? Not even a chance. Instead, counting our blessings every day.