Farmer Kurt Kaser of Pender, Nebraska, escaped a grisly death by sawing off his own leg with a pocket knife.
Kaser has been farming corn, soybeans, and hogs all his life. But on the afternoon of April 19, the 63-year-old farmer encountered the horror of his grain auger in a way he had never seen in any of his long years. “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.”
Kaser’s foot slipped into the auger, torn from his leg before his eyes. As it began to consume his leg, he was forced to make a grim decision. “I didn’t know what to do,” he told reporters on 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.”
During the process, his cell phone had fallen somewhere out of sight. Alone on his 1,500 acres, there would be no one who could hear his agonizing calls for help. It was time to take action or die. “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.”
And he certainly did. Whipping out his pocket knife, Kaser sawed at the remaining muscle and nerve tissue about eight inches below his knee — using his own exposed leg bone for leverage. Then, in a demonstration of raw grit, Kaser drug himself 200 feet to the nearest phone to call his son — a member of the local squad — for help.
Kaser spent a week in the hospital after amputation of the remaining destroyed flesh, then two weeks at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln. He finally got back home on Friday. And despite the traumatic experience, Kaser is undeterred. In fact, he is grateful.
“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.”