Cindy Folck—Guest Writer
I should have known better. I’m recovering from a severe concussion; one so bad that I couldn’t drive, watch television, or do anything on the computer or smartphone for nine weeks. My recovery is still ongoing and while writing three months later, I’m only working part-time at my job in town and can’t help on the farm.
The catalyst for my concussion was not a car accident, falling down the stairs, or even sports related. A 500-pound sow caused my concussion because I didn’t follow safety procedures around livestock.
I should have known better. I know what to do to keep myself safe around livestock. I grew up on a beef feedlot where we fed out 1500 steers a year and had a 50-cow Angus herd. I helped move cattle, process them in the chute, and load trucks. I showed steers and heifers since I was nine-years-old, including the job of halter breaking 500-pound steers. My husband and I have been raising sows and feeder pigs for 13 years. Over the years, I’ve seen injuries that can result from not handling livestock properly—so I should have known better.
But, I had become complacent. I was only going to be in the field with the sows for a few seconds to pick up some buckets. I walked out into the field without a cane or stick. My second mistake was I turned my back on a sow in heat. She came up behind me and gave me a push, which threw me into the fence. I got up a little dazed and, with my back still to her, she hooked her nose under my behind and tossed me in the air. The last thing I remember was the sensation of flying in the air. Fortunately, my 16-year-old son, Chester, ran from a nearby barn and took control of the situation.
It was only a few seconds, but those seconds brought my life to a screeching halt and cost me a precious commodity—time. My Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent visiting with family in a dark room we created in our house. I lost contact with the outside world as I waited for my brain to heal. Unlike a broken leg, you can’t put a cast on your brain to allow movement and interaction with the outside world. Concussions only allow you to sit and wait for the brain to overcome the trauma.
I’m thankful that my neck was not broken, which was an early concern. I’ve successfully begun to drive, work on the computer again and can at least handle the weather report on the television. My recovery continues and I’m hoping to be able to help on our farm by the time u-pick strawberry season starts. A few seconds of ignoring what I knew I should do cost months of recovery time.
As we enter into the season of 4-H and FFA members obtaining and working their projects, I encourage parents to really look at how everyone involved is exposed to the animals. The sow that attacked me had been shown. She had traveled to shows around Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Because we interact with them daily, we forget that they are still animals and therefore unpredictable. Don’t cost yourself or other family members time. It’s the one commodity that’s not renewable.
Photo caption: Cindy Folck (right) and her son, Chester. It’s over three months since the accident and Cindy still has to wear noise-reducing earphones in the farrowing barn.