Bringing Brian Back- Part 1 of 3

By Amanda Miller
PC: Unsplash
One of my husband’s characteristic sayings is, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
It’s meant to dissuade anxiety or unrealistic worries, and it used to help a little.

Until one day, the worst did happen. 

Brian was ran over by a tractor. 

Actually, he was run over by the farming implement the tractor was pulling —
a 20-thousand-pound no-till drill, a heavy beast fitted with rows of sharp discs meant to plow through hard-packed Kansas soil. 

The tractor kept going, until it lodged itself in a grove of trees in the middle of the section, a quarter mile from the dirt road. So by the time anyone started to be concerned at Brian’s absence, it was already getting dark. 

I was at work, and normally I would have tried to be in contact with Brian several times throughout the afternoon and evening, but I was in the throes of prepping for and teaching a cooking class and didn’t notice that there was no response to my single text. I had no idea it had already been almost five hours by the time someone told me they couldn’t find him, so I thought maybe he was just at Grandpa’s or something. Then the call came: “They found him in the field; he’s been run over by the tractor,” all I could do was scream. 

Even now, typing these words more than a year later, I have to stop and take a moment to swallow—to breathe deep. 

People talk about having out-of-body experiences in moments of high stress. In those moments, I feel it was almost the opposite for me, feeling too in-my-body, as my mind felt trapped inside a body that was reacting for me. My arms and legs moved while my brain lagged behind; I could feel everything except for myself.

I remember filling the still night darkness of Main Street with my sobs as I ran to the car and fell inside, trying to breathe but also not really caring if I couldn’t. Brian’s the only one that calms me down from soul-sobs like that, but suddenly he was also the only one that couldn’t. 

There’s no way to process the idea of your husband lying in a field, dying or not dying or what. Part me of assured me this wasn’t actually happening, another part carefully considered my responses and how I should be acting rationally, and the rest of me was still back at that moment when my heart stopped functioning.

Lisa drove while I cowered in the passenger seat, shock grappling with disbelief. I remember the stupid cows were out, blocking the road, and I almost jumped out and ran the rest of the way to the Rufus 80. Finally we made it to the edge of the field, and a police officer pulled up at just the right time for me to stumble over into his vehicle to drive the rest of the way into the field.

I could just see a light and some figures standing way out there, but when we got closer I saw the blanket crumpled on the ground. Lurching over the rough soil, I collapsed beside Brian. Someone uncovered his face for me, and I was filled with hope and horror as he recognized me and responded — but the voice was barely his, and he was covered in blood.

I backed away, both because looking at him made it real and because the ambulance had just arrived. I knew I was starting to go into shock when I couldn’t stop shivering and the darkness swirled around my head, but again, I didn’t really care. I think I stopped sobbing at some point and just glazed over. First responders kept asking me questions and I just couldn’t figure out the answers. I knew we had an address; I just had no idea what it was. 

I kept seeing more people crowding around him on the ground, more equipment being summoned from the ambulances. Then the chopper flew in, and I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye before they shoved a tube in his chest and rushed him into the helicopter.

To make a long story short, the next several hours were spent getting to an urgent care unit in a nearby city, curled up in a waiting room using one million Kleenex, and lying somewhere in the middle of a hospital hallway on the floor sobbing again. 

There were about a dozen amazing people who came to the waiting room to sit with us. A chaplain and some doctors came in at points, and it was explained how incredibly serious Brian’s situation was. Apparently they almost lost him several times during transport, and while he had been initially responsive, he basically hadn’t been since emergency teams had arrived on the scene. Though the tires crushed him, the blades seemingly didn’t touch him. 

He had 11 broken ribs, collapsed lungs, life-threatening major damage to internal organs, a broken pelvis, and severely lacerated knee.

As if the trauma of the accident itself wasn’t enough, those six hours in between had worsened his internal injuries, allowed for significant blood loss, and reduced his core temperature by several degrees. 

We almost lost him. The most patient, kind, generous, hardworking, servant-hearted man you’ll ever meet, and we almost lost him. 

Brian and I have only been married just over eight years, but the way I approach life is structured around having him in it. We are the balance each other needs, and he’s the reason I begin to understand the unconditional love of God. 

I think half of our little Midwestern town lost sleep that night, knowing Brian was in trouble and praying in response like I’ve never witnessed. That night I stayed clinging to his bedside, clinging to hope in that space when words have long been lost. As the morning finally came around, I dozed for maybe five minutes — but then instead of waking up from a nightmare, I woke up into one. 

Little did I anticipate the depths of beauty and pain that were yet to come. 

Over the next couple days, Brian’s multiple major internal injuries—that were either going to be fatal or fine—were fine. It wasn’t long before he was sitting up, eating an orange popsicle, and being transferred down to Intermediate care. It was impossible to not see God working, and we had the strange ability to share our praises with so many: due to an astounding response to my plea for prayer on social media, we created a Facebook page to keep people in the loop — soon, thousands of people literally across the world were following my updates, whether they even knew Brian and me or not. We prayed, we cried, we celebrated together. 

Brian’s rate of recovery was going remarkably, and we were all on a high of seeing amazing progress. 

And then everything slowed to a painful crawl. Brian spent three weeks in IMU, with me holed up on a cot beside his bed. We were basically just waiting for his digestive system to start working and trying to get his pain levels down—just waiting day after uncomfortable day. He had a nasogastric tube down his nose that both fed him and then pumped the resultant undigested bile out of his stomach, as his intestines retained damage from being crushed. They were either going to get better on their own or not, and this time they didn’t. 

He was on a slow downward trajectory, and while other injuries like his leg and his ribs were in the healing process as we waited, his guts wouldn’t cooperate. There was no drama to keep us riding along on adrenaline, no major improvements to boost our morale, and we were tired. It was horrible to watch my husband gradually lose his strength as constant pain wore him down physically and mentally. 

Discouragement is a lonely, cold thing. I was afraid I was going to have to face it alone, but the community of support around us kept going strong. Literally every day, my sister-in-law would come sit with me, and I would have visitors, texts, messages, drawings from children, random coffee deliveries, etc. People were clearly paying attention when God said to care for the sick, to be his hands and feet and hugs.

Then suddenly everything fell apart again. The surgeons decided it was time to get him in the operating room to give him an ileostomy (intestinal diversion into an external bag), so the next day Brian went into what was supposed to be a fairly routine surgery.

Typing this I had to stop and cover my face in my hands, as I can’t escape the terror of that day. 
I had someone sitting with me for the first couple of hours in the waiting room, but it kept going so long that she had to leave. By the time the surgeon came to give me an update, I was sick with worry, and the look on his face made me lightheaded.

Brian was not headed back to our old room, but rather back into ICU, and things were not great. When they opened up his abdomen, they discovered two bowel perforations — something extremely dangerous that they wouldn’t have found for days if surgery, by the grace of God, hadn’t already been scheduled. They were not able to fix the damage in his colon, as they were focused solely on keeping him alive; survival was the goal once again.

Amanda and her husband Brian live on the family dairy farm in Hutchinson, Kansas, and are so grateful for the incredible support they've received from their church, community, and beyond. Amanda loves teaching cooking classes at a local kitchen store and writing for the local newspaper, but also enjoys nerding out over food science, traveling in East Africa, interacting with different cultures, riding her bicycle, making cheese, and living in a way that respects creation.


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