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The wake-up call

By Holly Martin

The call came just as I sat back down at my desk in my home office.

I was working at home that day and had just run some tools to the barn for my husband and sons, who were working on repairing the roof of our barn across the road.

It was my oldest son.

“Ummm, Dad fell off the ladder.” My heart rate jumps.

Trying to remain calm, I say, “What happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is he OK?”

“Ummmm. Yes?” The answer is not the kind of confident response I’m looking for. My heart rate shifts to overdrive.

“Do you need me to come over?”

The emphatic “Yes!” that comes next is so loud and quick, I run to my car.

When I pull up, my husband is lying in a heap on the concrete next to the ladder. Both are broken and bent. My sons are kneeling beside him and I see him move. I take what is surely my first breath since hanging up the phone.

There is no blood. He is conscious. Those are both good signs. I help him as he struggles to sit up, and I see he is white as a sheet.

“What’s our goal here?” I ask.

I can’t print what he said next, but he strongly indicated his need to get to the—ahem—emergency room. I forgive him for his language because if the man who never goes to the doctor is requesting to see one, I know it’s bad.

After an ER visit at 6 p.m. on Friday—because all emergencies happen shortly after 5 p.m. on Friday—we learn we will see a specialist the next week. But we know there’s at least one surgery in our future. He has a complicated break of the tibia and his pain is so severe he can’t move without wincing. It could have been so, so much worse. He fell eight feet onto concrete. He could have a severe head injury or be permanently disabled.

But he isn’t, and I’m thankful.

Which leads me to my point: It’s National Farm Safety month. Never before has my message to you been so heartfelt.

Whatever you do, keep your safety and that of your family and employees at the back of your mind at all times.

Eric’s injury was minor compared to what can happen near dangerous farm equipment, but he told me later that he knew he was cutting a corner. He was in a hurry. They had not gotten as far that day as he had hoped and my son had to leave shortly. He wanted to make up time. Instead, the repairs never got made and it took weeks to recover. He was not allowed to bear weight on his leg for three months. It took at least another month before he could walk without assistance. It’s now six months later and he’s getting around better, but he still has a slight limp that I suspect will be there for a while.

I would guess the majority of farm safety injuries result from trying to save time or hurry and get things done. It’s a natural inclination. But consider this: Agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2012 there were 475 fatal injuries in agriculture, the third highest of all industries, following construction and transportation. The number was 16 percent lower than the previous year; however, agriculture had the highest death rate based on number of workers of all industries.

It’s not the kind of job where cutting safety corners to save time pays. In fact, it’s not if something will happen but when.

Eric will not be happy that I shared this story. He’s a private guy and he made me promise when we got married that I would never send one of our videos into “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Too bad he never envisioned I would write a column for nearly 50,000 readers every week or he would have included this in the deal too.

But when someone you love is hurt, you hurt. And you don’t want it to happen to anyone else. If sharing our personal story works as a reminder to prevent injury—or even death— to a reader, then it’s worth it.

Be safe.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806, or by email at hmartin@hpj.com.

Date: 9/09/2013

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