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“My goal was to have my normal life back”

by Amanda Larsen

On a sunny March morning, Mary VenHuizen and her husband, Jeff, started their chores on the family-run beef farm. The promising day took a nightmarish turn when a tractor rolled back onto Mary pinning her legs between a feed cart and the barn wall. Jeff quickly moved the tractor off Mary and called an ambulance.

As she waited, Mary told her neighbor, “My legs are messed up, but God is on our side.” Together, they prayed for peace. She remembered, “I tried to keep calm. I knew it wouldn’t help to break down and I didn’t want to worry my husband.”

Mary is no stranger to doing what is necessary for the people she loves. The mother of 5 children, she helped Jeff run a dairy farm with small children. Now, she works a full-time job and helps on the farm.

Mary’s survival depended on this commitment to family and hard work. She underwent 8 hours of emergency surgery to address injuries like broken tibias and fibias in both legs. The main artery in her left leg was severed and a vein from her right thigh was taken to replace it.

Mary fought for her life and her leg, but the work wasn’t over. In April, she started two weeks of inpatient therapy at MFB. Mary was nervous that she wasn’t ready for inpatient therapy, but all that manual labor on the farm paid off. She had the strength to do the rehabilitation.

“My time at Mary Free Bed was fantastic,” Mary said. “I learned so much about my muscles. My therapists were wonderful. They explained everything.”

At Mary Free Bed, Mary learned to move again. She learned to use a slide board to move from her bed to a chair and a wheelchair to the car. She built upper body muscles, and re-learned basic life skills in preparation for going home.

Mary’s friends and family pitched in. Her kids built ramps in her home, and her church held a fundraiser to save the farm. Mary was happy – and scared – when she finally came home.

In June, Mary started 4 months of outpatient therapy at MFB. She did a combination of physical and occupational therapy. “My goal was to have my normal life back,” Mary recalled.

In physical therapy, Mary loved the pool therapy where she felt light and relaxed. In occupational therapy, she worked to regain her balance. Her therapists were upbeat and encouraging. “They were just as excited as I was when I took my first steps with a walker. Their encouragement helped me push myself,” Mary said.

On June 19, Mary took her first steps.

She said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Mary Free Bed. I am so glad that they do their job so well.”

Mary is now walking, working at her full-time job and doing bills for the farm. Recently, she lifted bales of hay. She was sore, but grateful to be back doing the things she loves for the people she loves.

3 Comments

Julie Scheving

What a wonderful story! I found myself cheering for Mary, and others who are still experiencing recovery through the work at Mary Free Bed!
“I am a life that was changed…” just like Mary!

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Mandy Willcome

Way to go Mom! We are so very proud of your hardwork and determination. Thank you to Everyone at St. Mary’s Hospital and at Mary Free Bed for giving us our mom back. That was a tragic day, but we all pulled together and knew that through God we would all make it no matter what. We are so blessed to have these great facilities so close to us. Thank you.

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