I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. ~ Psalm 16:8, KJV
We were younger then, full of vitality and eager to face life’s challenges. In 1950, I had graduated from the College of Medical Evangelists in medicine; and my wife, Helanejo, had also graduated in nursing. Having school debts to pay, we decided to make my home state, Michigan, our “mission field.”
There was a need in rural central Michigan. After a few years, we built a medical center in the farming area around Ithaca. Family practice has always been on the forward edge of medicine, and we found ourselves doing everything. Soon we had a reputation of willingness to make home calls and do extra things for people.
Then, on a sunny day in the early fall, it happened. Farmers were harvesting grain-laden fields and filling silos for the winter. The phone rang and a most urgent voice pleaded for needed help – now! Learning with difficulty where they lived and not asking questions, I grabbed several sterile trays of instruments, intravenous lines, etc., and took one of my office nurses with me.
Arriving at the farm home, it was obvious that some kind of an accident had occurred. Several neighboring farmers were already gathering. I was ushered quickly to the back of the barn, where a forty-foot silo towered over my head. At the base of it was a huge tractor with an eight-inch drive belt attached to a monstrous iron silo-filing machine, which stood silent. A quick glance showed a middle-aged man on the back of an elevated farm wagon with his left leg, up to his groin, tightly locked in the massive anger of this huge machine.
He was in deep shock, still alive, and, of course, in pain. My quick, earnest prayer was, “Lord, help me save him [and] guide my mind and my hands.” Immediately a plan flashed before me. His blood pressure was now very low, and he had no pulse. Starting the intravenous glucose with collapsed veins was a challenge. I administered morphine for pain, as well as antibiotics and tetanus toxoid.
During this time, I asked the gathering farmers to bring a metal cutting torch and pails of water. The dying man began to stabilize. Now, hopefully, we would be able to get him out of the machine. He had low blood pressure and faint pulse. His crushed leg would have to come off. The farmer’s workers were also beginning to help, giving me just enough room to do surgery.
Using large amounts of local anesthetics, I then felt another Hand steadying mine as I amputated his left leg, using my sterile instruments and drapes in the dirty area. That twenty-plus-mile ambulance trip to the hospital seemed like a year that day, but the operating personnel and surgeon on call were ready; and then the revision began. This farmer lived after one of the worst farm accidents in Gratiot County. Today, he can walk with prosthesis. Truly, the Lord was before and at my right hand.
–V. Lowell Sheline, LLUSM class of 1950, resides in Sedona, Arizona. He practiced family medicine for thirty-six years in Michigan.