If you are looking for proof that miracles still happen, you need look no further than Hyde County, N.C., and the story of Demock Mann who is still able to walk his fields after a life-threatening farm accident two years ago.
On Feb. 27, 2019, Mann was working with his brothers Tyler Mann and Wyatt Mann, along with others, loading corn into their grain bin on their farm in Fairfield in Hyde County. Tyler was outside the grain bin working at the control panel while Demock and Wyatt were working inside the bin when the auger moved and drilled right through Demock’s leg, trapping him. The auger wasn’t supposed to move as quickly as it did. When the auger came on, it moved much faster than it should have moved. Tyler immediately turned the auger off and noticed it had cut through Demock’s thigh.
“We didn’t know what to do. I thought his leg was done at the least. We had to get him out,” Tyler said in an YouTube educational video produced by Andrea Gibbs with Hyde and Tyrell County Extension last year after the accident.
Miracles then began to happen because everything seemed to work out during the crisis situation. “Everything just kind of lined up just right,” says Demock’s wife, Mary-Beth.
Mary-Beth notes that the doctors, nurses, and all of Demock’s caregivers agreed that it was indeed a miracle that Demock’s leg was saved. And while everything did work out, and Demock is able to walk and continue to work on the family farm, the Manns and Agriculture Extension Agent Andrea Gibbs agree the system could have worked smoother with protocols in place to better deal with such emergencies on the farm.
Gibbs said adding to the challenge is the fact that Hyde County is rural and remote. The grain bin on their Fairfield farm was about two hours away from a major hospital. Fortunately, the weather was calm and clear that day and EMS was able to fly Demock into Greenville.
“Most people are not familiar with the farm and farm equipment. First responders didn’t know the best course of action to get Demock out of the bin. Rural fire departments rely primarily on grant funding and local fundraising to purchase new equipment,” Gibbs says.
“Farmers need to make sure they have a farm safety/emergency plan. They need to check in with each other and never work dangerous jobs alone. When the truck driver called 911, he couldn’t tell the dispatcher where he was. Our 911 calls go to Dare County, so the dispatchers are not familiar with Hyde County,” she adds.
Gibbs says the good news is that a protocol is now in place that whenever anybody calls 911 in Hyde County and it’s a farm-related accident, they now dispatch the grain bin rescue trailer with no questions asked to any farm accident.
Importantly, the emergency taught Demock and his family to now be more careful on the farm. Even more importantly, it put them on a mission to share Demock’s story and educate others on the vital importance of farm safety.
“After having a farm accident, it is an event that nothing can go back to normal. It’s never back to normal. It changes the way you do everything. You look at everything a whole lot different. Everyone is safer. You pay attention more. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous jobs and you forget about that when you work every day until something like this happens. Then you become a whole lot more aware of what’s going on around you and trying to watch out for everybody to make sure they are doing things the right way and being safe when they’re working, just doing everyday things,” Demock said in the video.
Demock, Mary-Beth Mann and Gibbs all agree one big reason Demock made it through such a frightening ordeal and life-threatening accident was so he could share his story to show just how dangerous farm work can be.
North Carolina Agromedicine Institute
The Manns worked with the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute which provides farm health and safety programs to farmers, farm families, farm workers as well as EMTs, fire departments and other first responders. “They can customize a program based on the needs of your community,” Gibbs says.
In addition, the institute helped Demock and his family sign up for health insurance outside of open enrollment and helped him connect with a counselor who understands and works with farmers. The institute also paid for a couple of Demock’s counseling sessions after the incident.
“When we (Extension) ask farmers what type of programs they need, they want to know how to produce more for less. Safety programs are needed, but rarely requested,” Gibbs says.
“Demock’s story is so impactful that I wanted to get it beyond just Hyde County,” she adds.
For the Manns, safety is now job one. They have a first aid kit always available. “We have tourniquets at home and tourniquets in all of our trucks now,” Mary-Beth says.
For Demock it was a long and painful recovery. He was in the hospital at the Vidant Medical Center in Greenville for five days. A few days after his first stay, he was re-admitted for three days due to an infection in his leg. He was in physical therapy for three days a week for three months.
Farming full time
Six months after the accident, he was able to return to the farm full time. He is still in pain from the accident two years ago, but Alieve helps him cope. Demock is still able to run the tractor, sprayer and combine but he leaves a lot of the manual labor to his sons Tristin, age 17, and Ethan, age 15, who are happy to help on the farm.
“I lost a lot of strength. I don’t have the core strength that I used to have,” Demock says.
“I had a lot of nerve damage and my leg swells. That’s why I like to wear shorts because they are more comfortable. My injured leg is a little shorter than my other leg, so it makes me walk funny. It hurts my hip and my back a lot of the time. I lost two inches in height. I can no longer wear boots,” Demock says.
Mary-Beth says it was a miracle there were no broken bones or torn ligaments from the accident. Interestingly, the corn that was still in Demock’s leg may have helped save him because it helped stop some of the bleeding.
“They called me the corn guy at the hospital. They said there was corn in the hallway of the ER for three weeks after I came in,” Demock says with a laugh.
One thing is certain, the accident brought the family closer. In addition, Mary-Beth says it showed how supportive their community is. “Everybody came together. Friends and other farmers brought us food and cakes and gift cards,” she says.
“It was almost as if I had died. I didn’t die,” Demock adds with a smile.
In addition to sons Tristan and Ethan, the Manns have a son Demock junior, or Deuce, age 10 and a daughter Sadie, age 7. The Manns farm in partnership with Demock’s brothers, Tyler and Wyatt, their dad Lee Mann, and their grandfather Richard Mann. They farm 3,500 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and string beans in Hyde County.
Demock says he is looking forward to spring planting and has hope for a prosperous 2021. One thing is certain, safety will once again be top of mind for everybody on the farm.