October 10, 2002
Worker Injured During Sorghum Harvest At Sandhill Farm
By Kathe Nicosia
This is not my usual column for the Memphis Democrat. It has been a very tough week for Sandhill Farm, as some of you may have already heard. I have been asked by the editor of the paper to give an account of what happened here.
Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, October 2, a new wagon of harvested cane was being moved into position at our sorghum mill. There was a crew working there at the time pressing the juice. One of them was Leanna, a member of East Wind Community who had come to help us with the harvest.
While the changeover was being made she continued to feed short stalks into the rollers and the others were preoccupied with getting the wagon set up. She had been cautioned about not getting her gloves too close to the machinery. Apparently her right glove was grabbed by the rollers and her hand went into the
Kris from Wygelia Community, who is very experienced with large machines (his profession is leading crews restoring old steam locomotives), flicked the emergency cutoff switch and stopped the belt within a matter of seconds. He then backed the rollers up, freeing Leanna's hand. We are grateful for his presence of mind, which
prevented an even worse accident from occurring.
Zeke from East Wind picked up Leanna in his arms and ran clear across our orchard and yard before he realized that no one was
helping him carry her. I had been working in the FIC Office and ran
outside towards him when I heard the cries. I worked in an emergency room when I was in college and I made a quick visual assessment of her condition. One of the interns had already called the hospital and we were advised to transport her to meet the ambulance in an effort to save time.
Leanna was put in the back seat of our Honda and her friend Ken rode there with her. My husband Michael drove and I also went. It was a very hard situation for both Ken and Michael, but they both stayed calm and showed a lot of grace under fire. I kept looking over my shoulder to check her condition.
The ambulance met us on Highway MM and Leanna was transferred and transported the rest of the way to Scotland County Memorial Hospital. Ken was allowed to ride into Memphis with the ambulance. Michael and
I followed in the car.
We arrived to find the woman on duty at the nurses' station trying valiantly to get a helicopter to pick Leanna up so she could be moved to a trauma center. None were able to fly due to bad weather, so she was moved to the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia by ambulance.
Leanna is still in the hospital in Columbia. Ken is there, along
with her family, and several members of East Wind have also come up from Ozark County to help out. Friends from the Terra Nova and Sunnyside Communities in Columbia are also providing support.
The condition of her hand is still being assessed prior to surgery, but we have been
told that it looks like her thumb and part of the first two fingers
on the right hand may be saved. She was released from the hospital October 7 and returned home at the East Wind Community to recuperate and is expecting to have additional surgery in the next few weeks.
We are trying to cope with this tragedy and also continue to work.
We are very thankful to the rest of the East Wind crew who have decided to finish out their week here and help us. Members of Dancing Rabbit are also pitching in. We are very lucky in our friends.