Farm Rescue to the, well, rescue
DICKENS – Chad Sorenson couldn’t speak as he watched what was happening in front of him on Oct. 10.
It was a typical sunny fall day with temperatures in the upper 70s and combines running all over northwest Iowa.
But untypically, Sorenson sat in a utility vehicle, his walker in the back, and watched Farm Rescue’s sponsored combine and equipment harvest the soybeans he would have ordinarily been combining.
Farm Rescue, from Jamestown, N.D., operates in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and eastern Montana. It’s a non-profit organization that plants and harvests crops free of charge for farm families who have experienced a major illness, injury or natural disaster.
“We love doing this,” said Levi Wielenga, a Farm Rescue operator from Sioux City. “We get to serve God and serve others, and I get to be with my family as we work together helping farm families in need.”
Sorenson, 24, was seriously injured in a farm accident on Aug. 25. He and a friend were scooping silage from a wagon. The bottom chain was broken, but the auger and beaters were still going.
“The beater got ahold of my shirt and pulled me in,” Sorenson said as he was overcome with emotion. “It flipped me over.”
His friend stopped power to the wagon and called 911 immediately, along with Sorenson’s parents, Dan and Allison Sorenson. He then attended to his friend.
Sorenson’s right leg and hip were torn up, and he had gaping holes in his abdominal area and down the leg. He had a tennis ball-sized hole on the back of his right hip.
“There was nothing left but the bone,” said Allison Sorenson of her son’s right leg.
Chad Sorenson said there were prongs on the one of the beaters that were bent from previous usage, and had they not been bent, his head and chest would have received the same battering as his lower torso and leg did.
Sorenson was taken to Spencer Hospital and then life-flighted to AveraMcKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, where doctors operated on him for most of the day.
There were no broken bones, but many other puncture wounds, along with a hernia injury, a sprained ankle, some nerve damage, a swollen foot and lots of blood lost.
“I needed 15 units of blood,” Sorenson said of the blood needed immediately in the emergency room and throughout his eight subsequent surgeries so far. “Your body only holds five units of blood, so I needed a lot of it. I was still talking to them at the hospital.”
Allison Sorenson said his survival was a miracle, because medical personnel could find only a faint pulse as they tended to him.
He ended up needing 160 staples to close up the wounds they could close. Specialists called on an “A-Cell” procedure to start tissue growth on Sorenson’s leg, and it was successful.
He has most recently undergone his ninth surgery – a skin grafting procedure and hernia repair. His initial hospital stay was three weeks.
With the Sorenson family busy caring for their son, Allison Sorenson said a family member called Farm Rescue to see if they could help. Volunteers came to the Sorenson farm from Sioux City, Farmington and Little Falls, Minn.
Chad Sorenson said it was an emotional moment to watch total strangers harvesting his crop.
“It shut down my heart for a second at first,” he said as he choked up. “I love farming.”
Sorenson rode in the combine for a short time.
“I can’t just watch and do nothing,” he said. His mother said he also rode with the grain cart driver as well.
The Sorensons had 300 acres of beans left to get out when Farm Rescue rolled in. They worked for three days. Farm Rescue’s semi driver, John Robertson, from Farmington, is a retired truck driver.
“This is something that feels right for me,” he said. “I grew up on a farm and I’ve missed it. This gives me the opportunity to give back.
“God gives us gifts, and I believe that if we don’t use them, we lose them.”
Weilenga, who works for the railroad, said he’s been with Farm Rescue for four years. And while it gives him time to spend with his family and work for someone else’s good, he said it gives their lives purpose.
“I have a new appreciation for life,” he said as he watched his 2-year-old son play with a toy combine in the field. “Each day on earth is a gift, because you never know when you are going home.”
Dan Sorenson, Chad Sorenson’s father, ran his own combine to assist the work. He said Farm Rescue is a revolution in farm thinking.
“Neighbors are all used to helping neighbors when we need it,” Dan Sorenson said, “but we could have a week like last week (when a strong storm came through and flattened corn fields in areas of northwest Iowa), and what if people came to get your crop out, and theirs was flat?
“You’d feel terrible. Our neighbors all have work to get done, too, so maybe this is a sign of the times-a new way of thinking about helping your neighbor. It’s an amazing thing.”
Sorenson ran his own combine along with Farm Rescue’s as much as he could because the forecast was calling for rain by late week.
Allison Sorenson said the family hopes their son will make a complete recovery, but that he has a long journey ahead of him. He still can’t move his toes. She said his accident could be a lesson to others.
“Chad has always been a very cautious operator,” she said, “and we never thought he would ever be hurt, but I guess it doesn’t matter how many farm safety precautions you take – it can still happen.”
She said she’s most amazed by the timing of event on the day of the accident.
“Timing was everything-it saved his life,” she said. “From the prongs on the beaters being bent down (so his head didn’t get caught in them), to people being here immediately to help him, getting him to Sioux Falls right away, to the surgeons being able to work on him all day. … and now to people being here to help us get our beans out when we needed to get that done, too.
“We are counting our blessings every day.”
Dan Sorenson said he would like to meet with the Farm Rescue people again under happier circumstances.
“If I see them out working somewhere, I’m stopping to say hello,” he said. “They’re wonderful people.”
Farm Rescue is funded solely by donations, business sponsorships and grants.
For more information about Farm Rescue call (701) 252-2017 or go to their website, www.farmrescue.org.
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