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Published on September 13, 2019

Plymouth Man Who Survived Being Crushed by Grain Bin Pipe is Bryan Health’s Trauma Champion

Jim Earnhart, a Plymouth, Neb. man who survived being crushed by an 1,100-pound grain bin pipe, is Bryan Health’s Trauma Champion for 2019.

large group bryan trauma champions

Trauma survivor Jim Earnhart is surrounded by
his family and caregivers at the Bryan Trauma
Champions event. 

Last August, Earnhart was working at a farm in Davenport, Neb., building a grain bin system. A 20-foot grain bin pipe, weighing nearly 1,100 pounds, fell and crushed him. A crew member immediately called 911 and emergency personnel arrived to the scene within minutes.

“I saw him sitting there," said James Manes, a member of the Davenport EMS team. "He was pale white and there was this big pipe laying on him. At that point, I didn’t even know if he was alive. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I don’t see how this is going to end in a good way.’”

First responders immediately noticed significant blood loss and severe injuries to Earnhart’s extremities. He was transported to the emergency department at Thayer County Health Services before being airlifted to Bryan West Campus for further life-saving treatment.

Earnhart arrived at the Bryan Trauma Center as a category one patient, the most severe. Doctors found dozens of fractures in his legs, feet and spine. Surgeons had to amputate Earnhart’s left hand and his left leg below the knee to save him. However, they were able to preserve the right leg.

Next Steps to Recovery

“With these types of injuries, the rate of limb loss is probably greater than 85 percent,” said Dr. Keith Hughes, orthopedic surgeon at Nebraska Foot & Ankle. “The goal was really to save the functionality of his right foot. It’s nearly impossible to walk with an amputation to both legs.”

After several days in the intensive care unit, Earnhart took the next steps in his recovery. He began inpatient therapy at Bryan West Campus. He worked to regain his strength, balance, range of motion and ability to complete daily tasks. After one month of hard work, Earnhart continued his therapy at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln before returning to his Plymouth home in November.

“I tell my trauma patients, ’95 percent of recovery depends on you’,” said Dr. Stanley Okosun, medical director, Bryan Trauma Center. “Jim was amazing. The first thing he did when he woke up was signal a thumbs up. That attitude set the tone for his recovery and why he’s come so far in such a short time.”

Adjusting to a New Normal

Since returning home, Earnhart has adjusted to his new normal. He received his prosthetic arm in December and his prosthetic leg in March. His family has been by his side every step of the way.

“Jim would not be where he is today without all the people that cared for him,” said Jim's wife Amy Earnhart. “If we didn’t have the people that God put in our paths to save him that day, he wouldn’t be here.”

Earnhart and those involved in his care were honored at Bryan Health’s Tribute to Trauma Champions. The event took place at the Lincoln Cornhusker Marriott on Thursday, Sept. 12. The program included remarks from invited guests and an in-depth video on Earnhart’s story. The gathering culminated by bringing onstage all first responders, emergency medical personnel, doctors, nurses, surgeons and rehab specialists to reunite with Earnhart and his family.

Birthplace of Advanced Trauma Life Support Course

Created in the 1970s, Bryan Trauma Center has been at the forefront of providing care to critically injured patients in southeast Nebraska. The program was the birthplace of the Advanced Trauma Life Support course. This program provides curriculum and training to physicians and providers around the world to set standards of care for patients with immediate, life-threatening injuries.

Bryan Trauma Center has also been the designated Trauma Center for southeast Nebraska. The facility is the lead hospital for Region II of the Nebraska Statewide Trauma System. More than 37,000 patients have been saved in the last 40 years; 97 percent of all trauma patients arriving with signs of life survive. That figure rises to 99 percent with pediatric trauma patients.

For more information on the Bryan Trauma Center, and to watch Earnhart’s video, please visit bryanhealth.org/trauma-champions.

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