Coming off of five surgeries and with another three planned for the near future, it’s been a rough six months for Dean Baker.
To help, there will be a soup supper benefit held at Lewiston School on Friday from 5 p.m. until 7. The goal of the benefit is to help lighten the load of Baker and his family after a gruesome accident last summer.
On Aug. 12, Baker was cleaning up damage to his property after the massive storm that swept through in June.
The storm had damaged the roof of his family’s home just east of Beatrice as well as some of the outbuildings. That Saturday, he was 20 feet up on a ladder and in the process of dismantling a lean-to made of wooden telephone poles.
Then, when he heard his wife Michelle screaming, he turned and saw heavy poles starting to collapse in his direction.
Dean held onto the ladder and rode it down as a telephone pole struck him from behind, crashing him into the ground below. The pole had landed on his right foot and, as he managed to get the heavy wooden pole off himself, he noticed something wasn’t right.
“I realized my leg was going the wrong way,” he said. “I had a double compound fracture of my fibula and tibia. They were both sticking out of my leg.”
The broken bone had punctured his leg in two places, through the shin and through the knee.
Michelle ran inside to grab the phone and call 911.
Baker's son, Colten, came out to be by his side and held the phone as Baker described what had happened and how injured he’d been to dispatchers over speaker phone.
Rescue crews arrived and were about to load him into the ambulance when they noticed the bleeding. He had nicked an artery and was bleeding heavily, so they called for a helicopter to air lift him to the hospital.
The chopper landed in his neighbor’s field and the ambulance crew drove him over. He was airlifted to Bryan West in Lincoln, but some lifesaving medical procedures had to be completed en route.
“I guess between here and Lincoln, they had to do a blood transfusion,” he said. “Seven pints of blood total. I almost bled out.”
Baker said he remembered getting on the helicopter, but not much for the next few day. He was sedated heavily as doctors began surgery on his right leg.
He had multiple broken and dislocated bones in his foot. His tibia was fully broken in several places, and his fibula was shattered.
Doctors inserted a composite rod through his leg and numerous pins and screws to hold the bone together. Baker’s foot was so swollen, doctors were unable to operate right away and had to slash it open in three places to prevent swelling.
That’s when Baker noticed a sharp pain in his left foot. Doctors x-rayed it and found multiple broken bones and dislocations. Doctors operated and his foot was a jumble of staples and pins that extended through the toes back to the heel and penetrated his skin. Several weeks later, they were able to operate on his right foot.
He then developed a fracture blister that was hiding a blood clot behind it. The doctors removed it and the site became infected. When the tissue was removed, it left a lemon-sized hole in his leg.
“It went one inch deep, so pretty much to the bone,” Baker said. “I told them, 'Hell, I've eaten steak smaller than that.'”
Baker ended up getting three blood clots before doctors decided to install an IVC filter in a major artery that collects blood clots before they get to major organs.
In total, Baker had 37 dislocated or broken bones in his right foot and 24 in the left.
Knowing he’d be using a wheelchair when he got home, Baker’s father and father-in-law came to the house and built ramps leading to the front door, to the garage and into the kitchen.
Baker still uses a wheelchair if he has to go longer distances, but can use crutches or a walker around the house.
Baker is an armory sergeant at the state prison in Tecumseh and said that, even though he’s been unable to return to work so far, his coworkers have been pitching in, donating their vacation time to him.
Friends and family have been really helping the family out, Baker said. They took up donations to help the family for Christmas and a woman helped them to pay their electric bill.
His prison coworkers, along with Michelle’s coworkers at Lewiston School, are helping to throw Friday’s benefit, which is a wonderful thing, Baker said, but it leaves him with conflicting emotions.
“I’m grateful,” he said. “But then again, I don't like handouts. But I know my family needs it. Kind of have to swallow my pride.”
Baker is off the pain medication regimen he’d once been on and now just takes ibuprofen for pain, he said. He still gets jolts of nerve pain he calls “zingers” and he wears a bone growth stimulator to heal his still broken fibula. The doctors said he’s looking at possibly being able to drive and walk again in May.
He’s getting in-home physical therapy once a week and the family had to make the home handicapped-accessible by adding bars in the bathroom and putting in a shower curtain instead of the old shower doors.
“Mentally, my family's hurt too,” Baker said. “My wife couldn't go over towards the barn for a while. My son, it affected him a lot, seeing me hurt. It took a lot for him to understand I'm going to be able to walk again, be able to do things again.”
The benefit for Baker will be held from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Lewiston School during the basketball game against Sterling. There will be chili and chicken noodle soup, as well as deserts and sandwiches, Michelle said. There’s also a freewill donation for those who feel inclined. Michelle said that the idea for the benefit was started by Lewiston School Superintendent Rick Kentfield.
“It was a little rough at the beginning, but we're doing good,” Michelle said. “It was definitely hard.”
When Michelle is at work and the couple's children, Colten and Madison, are in school, Baker is usually home by himself. He can’t drive yet, and even short walks can be tough, but he’s never alone.
The family's dogs, Harley and Remington, are always by Baker's side, though they aren't always the most helpful.
When he was first home-bound and learning to get around, Baker had to scoot up and down stairs and to the car and back, which the dogs really enjoyed, he said.
“The way you get back, you basically crab crawl to the couch to get myself up,” he said. “The first time I did that, the dogs thought I was playing. I was trying to back up and the dog went behind me and laid down. That one jumped right up on my chest.”