PENDER – A man who farms near Pender, Nebraska, went to extraordinary lengths to save his life after his left leg became trapped in a machine on his farm.
In the early afternoon of April 19, Kurt Kaser, a lifelong corn, soybean and hog farmer, was transferring grain from one bin to another when he stepped into a grain auger. The machine ate away at his left leg and sucked the 63-year-old toward the machine.
“I didn’t know what to do,” he said Tuesday. “I was afraid it was going to suck me in more. I about gave up and let it do what it was going to do.”
Kaser was alone on the farm that day. His cellphone either fell into the machine or fell out someplace else. On the 1,500-acre farm, yelling would do no good.
So he pulled out his 3-inch pocket knife and hacked away at his leg.
“I have had other incidences. I try to hold my cool or figure out how to make the situation better at the time,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. You want to survive and you do what you need to do to survive, I guess.”
Kaser saw the machine remove his foot from his body and tear away at his flesh. About 8 inches below his knee, he found the smallest connection of tissue and determined it was his best chance to free himself.
He sawed away at muscles and nerves, cutting through a half-inch to an inch before he came free.
“The bone stuck out down to my ankle,” he said. “That’s what I was hanging onto as I was trying to get myself out.”
Once free, Kaser crawled about 200 feet to the nearest phone. He called his son, who is on the local rescue squad.
Kaser’s son, Adam, was the first person to arrive at the farm. He helped take his father to town. Kaser then was flown to Bryan Medical Center’s west campus in Lincoln, where one of Kaser’s two daughters is a trauma nurse. She wasn’t working that day.
Kaser spent a week in the hospital and two weeks at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. He returned home Friday.
“Everybody says, ‘You seem so upbeat about it,’” he said. “I’ve been in Madonna for two weeks. Some (other patients) won’t ever get out of their wheelchairs. What they’ve got is what they are. I know I will be walking again fairly normally. Other people can’t, won’t ever.”
Once he heals, Kaser said, he will be fitted for a prosthetic and he’ll go back to farming the land he was born on. All things considered, Kaser should be able to walk fairly normally.
Kaser said he hopes his story will serve as a cautionary tale and maybe make at least one farmer slow down a bit.
“I was in a hurry and didn’t pay attention,” he said. “Farmers, we’re all guilty of it, but we don’t stop and think. We get in too big a hurry.”