Farmer Confronts Death After Tractor Mauls Him
By Robert Hull
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Tim Vander Zwaag recalls his fight for survival. “The pain is something I just can’t explain. But also just the fight to get back to get home, I want to go see my wife. I want to be with my kids. That’s a fight you just don’t realize how deep it is until it’s brought out of you.”
Tim and Teresa Vander Zwaag love life on their family farm near Holland, Michigan. But they know with the beauty of farm life often comes dangerous work.
Teresa says, “You always hear stories of a tragedy when a tractor will roll over in the middle of the night, when a farmer is in the middle of a field and he doesn’t come home. To get that phone call or to hear that news about your husband is something I’ve never wanted.”
On a bitter cold night in December 2013 Tim was working alone in a field. As he stepped to the back of the tractor he tripped and fell near the PTO shaft, which connects the tractor to the manure spreader. The shaft spins at over 500 rotations per minute.
Tim says, “I could feel the thing starting to wind up on my left side of my pants. And I knew I was in trouble. I reached out to grab whatever I could hold onto. And within seconds I was just being wound up and beaten up against the frame of the manure spreader, and then thrown off to the opposite side – just literally naked with all the clothes stripped right off my body.”
Tim lay on the freezing ground trying to grasp the situation.
He says, “How did this happen? What did I just go through? How am I going to get out of here? And just instantly ‘okay, let’s start to crawl. I’ll crawl to the tractor.’ I was scalped to the head. I had four fractured ribs, four fractured vertebrae. My spleen was split. My hip was displaced. My femur broke. My ankle was crushed. I can remember looking down and seeing my leg lying across my lap and just this huge bulge in my side.”
He tried crawling toward the tractor.
Tim says, “I was done. I had burned up all my energy and I remember just saying a very simple prayer and it was ‘Lord, either get me back on that tractor or I’m ready to come home to You.’ Within seconds, I had calmness and a clarity that I did not have before. I just felt peace. And the first thing God was saying to me is, ‘Crawl to the tractor.’ I knew if I could get somewhere I could get help.
He knew he didn’t have much time left.
Tim remembers, “It’s 10 degrees; it’s getting dark. My body’s starting to shut down at this point. I truly believe angels were there with me. And God wasn’t done with me yet. He helped me get back onto the tractor seat. I can remember the feeling once I got up onto the tractor seat of ‘Thank You, God. I’m on the tractor. Now I have to push in the clutch with my foot that’s dangling across my lap.’”
Thankfully, he was able to get the tractor in gear and moving. Though his body was shutting down, his heart and mind were focused in prayer and thankfulness that he was still alive.
“I remember just curling through the field and just thinking ‘Thank You God, I cannot believe You’ve gotten me this far but I need Your help. I need someone to help me because I don’t have much time left. Lord, just take care of me. Get me through this. I love You and You’ve always been here with me. But I need you now more than I’ve ever needed before,’” says Tim.
He drove his tractor onto a nearby road and blocked traffic. The first driver there was an off-duty firefighter. Within minutes Tim’s wife Teresa got the phone call she had feared for so long.
Teresa says, “He introduced himself as a deputy and I could hear Tim screaming in the background. And I knew it was that phone call. I had a peace that passes understanding. And I just knew that the Lord was holding me.”
When Teresa got to the scene, Tim was surrounded with neighbors and family praying and helping emergency personnel.
“It was so out of control and so much chaos,” says Teresa. “You had no choice but to rely on the Lord. Just to –and I literally did fall to my knees and start praying. There’s nothing more that I could do for him.”
“I remember looking off the tractor down and hearing her say, ‘I’m here honey, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay.’ And it was almost like a confirmation of ‘we have you.’ And you really needed that because at that point my body was starting to shut down to the point I was starting to die,” says Tim.
“They figured he had about 10 minutes to live, based on hypothermia and blood loss,” Teresa says.
Even though his situation was dire, they felt God was supplying all their needs.
Teresa recalls, “The prayers were immediate and I could just—I was covered with peace. I mean, incredibly covered with peace. One thing after another of the right people there at the right time. That is all God’s hand in this.”
Tim was rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to save his leg and stabilize his condition.
“It wasn’t luck that a doctor was able to fix me,” says Tim. “Yes, God worked through that person to fix my body. But it’s only by the grace of God that I’m sitting here today.”
Tim and Teresa know it was the power of prayer and their Christian community standing with them that brought them through this desperate time.
“I was one of the strongest guys out there, and I could do about anything I wanted to,” says Tim. “Within seconds I was reduced down to ‘Who’s going to feed me; who’s going to give me my medicine?’ You cannot do it alone. And don’t you want that community in Christ to come around you and just wrap their arms around you and your family and say, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re going to take care of it.’”
Teresa says, “God gives us everything we need. Now when he’s walking and farming and working, and being dad and husband again, it’s a lot to be thankful for. We just believe that he is alive for reasons and that we need to just give God the honor and the glory.”
“I don't know why I went through this,” says Tim. “I know I did. And I’m not going to let this affect me for the rest of my life and change me in a bad way. I hope to say it’s changed me in a lot of ways in a good way. It’s made me come to appreciate what a great God we have even more. Sometimes people wonder, ‘If I pray, does God even hear me?’ I was lying naked in a cornfield in the snow beaten almost to death, and God was right there. He listens. He’s not going to sometimes answer you the way you want, but he is there for you all the time.”
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