Farm accident survivor: ‘I might not be here at all’

As the old adage goes, ”tis an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good’ and these sentiments certainly ring true for one Co. Longford farmer who miraculously survived a serious farm accident just over 12 months ago.

On October 5, 2017, Pat Donnelly, a suckler farmer in the north of the county, began his day as usual.

He tended to the animals and was waiting for a delivery of hay as the afternoon approached. Little did Donnelly realise that within a couple of hours he would find himself being airlifted to Sligo General Hospital.

My brother-in-law rang me and told me the load of bales I was waiting for were on the way from Carlow.

He added: “I always get hay at that time of year to supplement silage and so when they arrived we set about getting them off the lorry.”

Donnelly then proceeded to get the tractor and front loader and began taking the bales off the lorry.

“Towards the end there were five bales left on one side; I said to the driver to drop them and I would push them off when he was gone,” he added.

Meanwhile, the lorry driver went down the road to turn and Donnelly lifted one of the bales up on his tractor – a 390t and parked it in his gateway which was about 20m from the road. When the lorry driver arrived back the men proceeded to push the remaining bales off.

And, it was then that things took a turn for the worst on the Co. Longford farm.

Farm accident

Looking back now, Donnelly recalls how one minute everything was grand – the next minute, he “was in trouble”.

“I pushed the first bale and it rolled grand; pushed the second one – grand, and when I went to push the third bale the second one rolled and got in the way. I couldn’t get it pushed out,” he continued.

“I hopped down – now, bear in mind that the tractor had been ticking over for about 15 or 20 minutes at this point but as soon as I got down, the driver shouted ‘look out’ at me. I looked up and there was the tractor coming towards me. I tried to move out of the way but it caught me on the left side and pushed my right side into the front loader.”

Standing at over six feet tall and as fit as a fiddle having played football at all levels for his native Fr. Manning Gaels and at county level, Donnelly reckons it was these two factors that saved his life that day. Although none of his bones were broken, it very soon became apparent that the farmer had serious internal injuries following the incident. He collapsed on the street and the lorry driver immediately rang 999.

“I knew I was in trouble then,” he added.

Injury and healing

Meanwhile, a local nurse arrived on the scene and after making sure Donnelly was comfortable she determined he was seriously injured and subsequently called the air ambulance.

“Then the pain started,” recalled Donnelly, who remained in hospital for 10 days after the accident.

He told AgriLand that both his hips were damaged in the incident. Pat also had injuries to his stomach and legs. Then, when he eventually came out of hospital, he was laid up for a number of weeks and was on crutches for some time thereafter.

The aftermath

It took time for the suckler farmer to get his two feet under him again, as he says himself, and just as he was getting back on track he became unwell and was subsequently diagnosed with cellulitis around St. Patrick’s Day, 2018.

A few months later the Longford farmer had a triple by-pass.

“I had seven arteries blocked in my heart and only for the cellulitis I wouldn’t have known that; whether the accident brought on the cellulitis or not I can’t be sure, but I could say that if I hadn’t been involved in the farm accident, sure I mightn’t be here at all,” said Donnelly.

When he looks back on the last 12 or so months it seems unreal, but he says that of all the things that have happened to him in that time, Donnelly still can’t believe that he underwent heart surgery.

“I was as strong as an ox; there was no history of heart problems in the family. Now, when I walk around the land I do say to myself ‘God, I might not be here at all’ – I am grateful to have come through it and that is the truth.”