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Ben Geiger finds joy in strawberry farming after amputation

An avid outdoorsman, Ben Geiger spent a lot of his free time fishing and hunting, riding bikes and four-wheelers, camping and skiing. And now he’s added strawberry farming to the mix.

“I’ve always loved being outside, doing new things, challenging myself,” Ben said. “I thought maybe by building this, by giving it life, it will give me life.”

Ben considers this latest endeavor part of his rehabilitation journey.

Ben was critically injured in a Sept. 6, 2016 crash that severed his leg and broke multiple bones. A semi-truck driver for 20 years, Ben was traveling northbound on Interstate 69 near Marshall when he choked on a piece of kettle corn.

“I lost control of the semi and crashed into some trees along the highway,” he said. “It took over an hour for (emergency personnel) to cut me out. I’m so thankful no one else was hurt.”

Ben was airlifted to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he underwent multiple surgeries, including amputation of his left leg above the knee. He spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit then came to Mary Free Bed for rehabilitation.

During the next four weeks, Ben participated in intense physical and occupational therapies as part of the inpatient Amputee Program. He gained strength and learned how to care for himself before moving home to continue his recovery. He returned to Mary Free Bed in April for outpatient therapy three days a week, including physical, occupational and recreational therapies.

“The (Inn at Mary Free Bed) was my home away from home for the next nine months,” Ben said.

Ben, 43, worked with Mary Free Bed’s Orthotics & Prosthetics + Bionics team to get his customized prosthesis and to learn to walk again. He most recently started walking without a cane.

“Even through the most difficult part of recovery, Ben always had a smile on his face,” said amputee care liaison Stephanie Rose. “His positive attitude was infectious, and his hard work and dedication have paid off. It is so great to see him successful and enjoying life.”

Ben’s also been enthusiastically participating in the hospital’s Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports classes and clinics, and enjoying his latest endeavor – strawberry farming with a neighbor on their shared property in Gaines, Michigan.

“My neighbor had been growing strawberries for over 10 years at her sister’s house and was looking for a new place to grow,” Ben said. “We decided it would be beneficial to both of us to have it so close to home.”

Planting and caring for the strawberries, and visiting with Maren Farms customers each day from early summer through the first frost has fueled Ben’s rehabilitation journey.

“As the strawberries grew, I also gained life,” he said. “I had no idea my path would lead to this. My favorite thing is how excited people are when they taste them. And it’s created an ecosystem of butterflies and birds, another bonus I’ve enjoyed. I absolutely love these strawberries. This has been a very spiritual journey.”

In this video, Ben tries adaptive sailing and shares how his life has changed almost two years since his accident.

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