My Generation

But Is the Concrete OK?

Thinking back to our brush with farm unsafety during this National Farm Safety Week.

***Just a note to emphasize that this occurred last year, in 2009. John told me it was confusing, but I insisted it wasn't because it had the date at the top. We started getting calls from concerned friends this weekend. I hate it when he's right. But I, too, am a speed reader, so I can see how you might skip over that! So now, a clarification. Enjoy! And be safe!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 4:15 a.m.

My husband gets in bed. He says he has this bump on his head and rubs at it. "Do you know what's going on?" he asks.

I struggled to wake up and honest to goodness, I thought he was putting me on. I tried to pull my thoughts together. I think I even asked him, "Are you messing with me?"

"No. I've got this bump on my head and I don't know how I got it. I don't how I got here."

That woke me up. Fully, totally awake. He was acting strange. Confused. Very not with it.

I asked him what day it was, and he wasn't sure. Actually, that could be entirely possible. We'd been in the field for 10 days and it had been nothing but wet corn, plugged augers, poorly operating dryers and propane bills. Days had run into nights had run into days, and he was up at all hours checking on the dryer. That night alone, he'd been up and gone three different times.

After about 20 minutes, it started coming back to him. He remembered falling. Maybe off the dryer.

"The dryer?!" I asked. "Like from the top? Or maybe from part way up the ladder?"

He didn't think it was from the top. We have a continuous-flow GSI dryer, not a tower, but still. The top is a ways up there. He also didn't know how he got home. The grain setup is three miles up the road. His truck was in the driveway.

He thought he'd climbed out of the bottom chamber and slipped. So we're talking, maybe a five-foot fall. But he clearly landed on his head, near his hairline. By this point, his neck, jaw and shoulder were beginning to hurt, too. I was checking to see if his pupils were dilating, and googling "signs of a concussion."

Then it all came back to him. The columns were plugged up inside the dryer, and he'd climbed into the lower air chamber to unplug them. On his way out of the awkward little two-foot-square hole, his arms somehow got tangled up and the last thing he remember thinking is, "Uh oh. This is going to hurt." He usually climbed out backwards but this time went forwards. The next thing he knew, he was wandering around the dryer, confused, and thinking, "I just need to go home." So he did.

Later, we figured out that he must have been unconscious for at least a little while. The log on the dryer showed he'd made an adjustment at 3:20 a.m. He came home at 4:15 a.m. Which means my husband was very likely lying unconscious on the concrete in the middle of the night, for some amount of time. That's the part I try not to let myself think about too long.

Back home, he wasn't showing any signs of a concussion, though I had my suspicions.  He was tired, but not like a groggy, concussion tired. More like a man who'd been up three times a night for the past 10 days checking the dumb dryer. He refused to go to the doctor, but he did send me back up to check the dryer. Since he didn't remember what he was doing, he didn't know how he'd left it.

Once I got the kids on the bus, I called a lovely nurse friend, who was concerned about the jaw pain as much as anything. Apparently, some major neck injuries can trigger jaw pain. John got up at about this time and came out in work clothes. I told him, "You've got to be kidding, we have to go to the doctor." He said no. I got mad and cried. He eventually gave in. You do what you have to do.

It turns out, he had a severe concussion. Oh, and while we were there, the doctor looked at him and squinted. "Have you had a tetanus shot lately?" That's right; those folks are trained to recognize men who don't go to the doctor, and when they get you in an actual medical building, they're going to give you everything they've got.

It rained for the next couple of days, so John got a chance to rest up, work out the kinks, and then life went on as normal. We got calls from friends all over the state (really, how does news like that travel so fast?), which was hugely heart-warming.

And since it all turned out OK, the whole thing has provided endless jokes. This fall, every time he calls at an odd hour, I make sure to ask if he's lying on the concrete somewhere. And the best man in our wedding, a farmboy himself, pointed out that we should forget his head - the real question was, "Is the concrete OK?!"


All jokes aside, here's wishing you and your family a very safe and injury-free harvest.

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