Friends, neighbors pitch in to help

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By Sandy Bond

In a moment, life can take a dramatic turn and change forever as did Mike Hirsch’s last month when the Java farmer and rancher lost the majority of his right hand in a farming accident.Since that time, friends and neighbors have continued to rally to his aid. 

A benefit dinner, live auction and silent auction to help with medical expenses and the prosthesis that Mike will need to continue farming will be held on Sunday, Feb. 26. Jim Houck, a rural Akaska rancher, will prepare the meal that will be served beginning at 5 p.m. All donations are welcome for the auctions and for more information, call Linda Gill at 605-230-0144 or Karmen Stiklestad at 605-380-2638. An account has also been set up at BankWest for donations.

“You can take the boy out of the country,” Mike’s wife Doria said, “but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, according to Doria, Mike was attempting to put the shield over the chain of the feed wagon. The frayed arm of an old sweatshirt he was wearing that morning got caught in the chain. Purely by instinct, he used his right hand to pull the sweatshirt out. In turn the chain caught hold of his fingers of his right hand. He knew he had to pull harder than life to get his hand out or lose his whole arm or worse. He was able to make it to the house to get help from Doria.

“Fearing that it would take too long to get an ambulance to the farm and then, in turn, go to one of the local small hospital and have to be transferred to Aberdeen,” Doria said, “his father, Roger, and I loaded him up and headed for Aberdeen. We had the Eureka Hospital, where I work as a nurse, dispatch paramedics to meet us.”

CareFlight transferred him to St. Mary’s Hospital/Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. When he arrived, he underwent several surgeries in the attempt to save two of his fingers at the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center. Doctors were amazed that he was able to pull hard enough to basically tear his hand out to save his life. However, the transplant was not a success. He subsequently spent the next 17 days in the hospital. He returned with his arm casted and immobilizer on his leg to protect the site of the skin graft.

Friends and family gathered to help move home the hay while Mike was in the hospital and again to pregnancy check the cows, Doria said. Neighbors stopped in to help with daily chores; Corey Sandmeier began working on the ranch after the accident, taking on the majority of the daily chores.

Mike was scheduled to return to Rochester on Tuesday, Jan. 24, so that doctors could check his progress and remove the cast from his arm. He will then begin occupational therapy and the process of being fitted for the prosthesis.

“Science and medicine have made great advances since the war in Iraq and Afghanistan with its roadside bombs and IED (improvised explosive devices),” Doria said.

Mike opted not to have a conventional ‘hook’ to replace most of his hand because of its limitations, and instead decided that prosthesis would better help him continue farming and ranching. Insurance, she said, would help pay for one prosthesis. However, the others will allow him to work with his cattle, even having the ability to manipulate the syringe for vaccinating them, and drive a tractor and a four-wheeler. He will also be able to throw a ball and, most importantly, just be a dad to his three sons, Carson, 9, Camden, 7, and Drake, 13 weeks.

- Sandy Bond -

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