It Could Have Been Worse
Over a 10-month period, Larry Hoffman twice made his way to the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital emergency room in Yankton, S.D.
Both times he had fallen off a ladder outside his home in Wynot, Neb., southeast of Yankton, while trimming tree branches. Each time he suffered what could have been dangerous injuries.
Larry, 70, is now almost recovered from the latest fall in April, when he punctured a lung, lacerated his spleen and broke a few ribs. The first fall the previous July knocked him unconscious, causing bleeding in his brain. Doctors feared he might need surgery and he was transferred to the University of Nebraska Medical Center near their home. Thankfully, the swelling decreased and Larry was released from the hospital soon after.
"The neurosurgeon in Omaha told me it would will get worse the second day," Larry said of his stay in Omaha, Neb. "He was surprised it didn't."
Larry’s troubles began following a July thunderstorm that downed several trees in the neighborhood where his hunting retreat in Wynot is located. It’s a home he maintains with his hunting buddies, though he lives in Gretna, Neb., with his wife Maggie.
Larry was trimming a tree when he believes a branch hit him in the head and knocked him off the ladder.
I was out cold before I hit the ground," he said. "I had five brain bleeds."
"I was out cold before I hit the ground," he said. "I had five brain bleeds."
When neighbors found him they called the Wynot rescue squad and he was taken to the hospital, where a nurse called Maggie. "He was having a grand old time in the emergency room cracking jokes," Maggie remembered.
After having a series of tests, including an MRI, doctors determined that he had bleeding in the brain. Because Avera Sacred Heart doesn't have a neurosurgeon on staff, Larry needed to be transferred. Maggie requested he be taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where their son was an emergency room doctor and they could be closer to their home in Gretna.
He was taken by Careflight to Omaha and by morning the swelling in his brain was down and he was soon told he could go home.
"The doctor said, 'I can’t believe he’s in the good shape he’s in, because when I got the call yesterday that he was coming down, I expected something completely different. He’s doing great,'" Maggie recalled.
Larry went home and, exhausted, recuperated from the fall.
"That was last July," Maggie said. "Then it was the new year, so we thought we’d do it again."
Another Close Call
In April, Larry again was trimming trees in Wynot when a limb hit the ladder and knocked him off. He didn't suffer a concussion this time, but he had many other injuries, including a lacerated spleen, punctured lung, bruised kidney and broken ribs.
"I lay there for a minute and then it dawned on me that I could hear a motor running. The chainsaw was running. It was leaking gas, so I got up and turned it off. Then, I walked across the street and I told my neighbor I fell again," Larry said.
Maggie got another call, this time from the neighbor, alerting her that Larry was again on his way to the emergency room.
"I wasn't in as big a shock the second time as I was the first time. The term 'brain bleed' scared me more," she said.
Thankfully, his lung healed by itself and his spleen did not need surgery.
But Maggie said, "This has taken a longer time and a harder toll."
"It took me longer to begin to feel better the first time."
Larry added, "I got hurt more the second time, if you don’t consider I had the brain bleeds the first time. It took me longer to begin to feel better the first time."
The couple tried to find the humor in the situation, and made quick friends with everyone in Yankton during their second stay.
"It was like having friends come in," she said. "They were wonderful. It’s kind of scary when you’re three hours away and you find out your husband has been taken by ambulance to the hospital and he’s got five brain bleeds. They kept me calm. They were easy to talk to. There isn't a thing that I would change, other than the fact that he was up on a ladder and it happened."
Larry has now concluded that the combination of a chainsaw, ladder and tree trimming is probably a bad combination.