Anhydrous burn spurs advice to farmers
After 35 years in farming, Kurtis Elting wants to warn people about the dangers of anhydrous.
On Nov. 12, Kurtis was applying the fall fertilizer and may have grabbed a valve, causing the anhydrous to freeze burn his face and settle into his lungs.
“This is something I’ve done all my life,” he said about farming and applying the fertilizer.
The accident happened just south of Edgar at about 6:30 p.m. Breathing became more difficult as Edgar’s volunteer medical personnel transported him to the Hastings hospital.
Saline lines were dripping on Kurtis for the trip because anhydrous is attracted to water like a magnet.
“They were pouring water on me constantly,” he said.
Kurtis was then life-flighted to Lincoln.
“I was swelling up inside. My airway wasn’t good,” he said.
The doctor told his wife Susie if she drove safely to Lincoln, she might be able to see her husband alive.
Susie made it to Lincoln and waited to hear from a doctor. Finally, at 2:30 a.m., the doctor told Susie Kurtis wasn’t expected to make it.
“They couldn’t tell how much damage there was to the lungs,” she said.
The next morning, Kurtis was taken off the respirator, but he couldn’t breathe on his own. They tried again the following morning.
“By Wednesday, I really kind of lost it,” Susie said. “By Wednesday night, I had given up hope.”
Thursday morning, Kurtis’s airway kicked in and he coughed up chunks because his body was rejecting the poison.
He received hammered breathing treatments that shot air in his lungs.
“I am still coughing,” he said last week.
He must stay away from dust, dirt, perfume and other scents.
Ten days after the accident, Kurtis checked out of the hospital on a Monday, but had to see an ophthalmologist because he couldn’t see out of his left eye, where his face had been burned.
“Everything was cloudy,” he said.
The ophthalmologist applied a solution to Kurtis’s eye and his cornea burst. Kurtis passed out because of the pain.
“Fluid had drained out of the eye. He was in danger of losing it,” Susie said.
Kurtis was scheduled for a cornea transplant. The cornea was flown into Omaha from Dallas, Texas, and brought to Lincoln via the state patrol.
His eye was damaged so bad, the transplant surgery lasted nearly four hours. An amniotic sac protected his eye after the surgery, but it came loose, and they had to return to Lincoln.
Kurtis has 16 stitches in his eye and is required to apply eyedrops several times a day. He isn’t working, and for someone who is used to farming, he said he’s getting along fine.
“He can’t sit still,” Susie said.
She was stunned when the accident happened because she had worked alongside him and he was always cautious.
“I was shocked,” she said. “I never really worried about him. I never felt like he was dangerous or took risks.”
Kurtis thought he had it down, too, but now wants to remind other farmers to take their time and have safety equipment, such as gloves, goggles and possibly full face shields, on hand.
“Think about what you’re doing,” he said.
After the accident, Susie posted a photo of Kurtis on social media.
“He wanted me to post his picture because of how fast it happened and how dangerous it can be,” she said.
“You can talk to a lot of farmers who have got a good, strong whiff of it or had a close call at some point,” Kurtis said.
Kurtis’s face is mostly healed. He can’t be in the sun. They’ll see how the eye heals over the next six months.
Both are positive and both are ready for 2016 to be over.
“We’re hoping 2017 is a better year,” Susie said as Kurtis stays by her side to prepare for the opening of RW’s Dining and Drinks in 2017.
And with the arrival of grandson Rexton Walker Oct. 21, both are inspired for a better 2017.