David Ebersviller landed on one of these pipes in the feedlane when he fell through the roof of the freestall barn last spring on his farm near Vergas, Minnesota.
David Ebersviller landed on one of these pipes in the feedlane when he fell through the roof of the freestall barn last spring on his farm near Vergas, Minnesota. PHOTO BY MARK KLAPHAKE
    VERGAS, Minn. – David Ebersviller’s life has been riddled with near-death experiences and close calls. As a 66-year-old dairy producer who has farmed his entire life, run-ins with cows and equipment is a daily risk.
    But looking back on the events of May 19, Ebersviller knows he could have done more to prevent what happened to him.
    Ebersviller continues to recover from injuries he suffered five months ago when he fell 23 feet from the roof of a freestall barn and landed on a 3-inch pipe in the barn’s feed lane railing. Landing on the pipe tore open the right side of his torso, damaging internal organs and causing significant blood loss.
    “I bear a fair amount on the responsibility as I should have checked the rafters better before I started,” Ebersviller said. “One of those things that you forget about as you are working.”
    Ebersviller milks 120 cows with wife, Darla, on their farm near Vergas. Ebersviller’s brother, Duane, and a brother-in-law, Duane, work for the dairy doing feeding and fieldwork. The farm runs about 800 acres of cropland raising alfalfa, corn and oats.
    On the day of the accident, Ebersviller was on the barn roof with his brother and a crew of three people. The crew was removing damaged tin from a storm the farm was hit with one year prior. The tin was intact, but the rafters were compromised.
    “Dealing with insurance pushed off repairs longer than I wanted,” Ebersviller said. “By the time spring came around, we couldn’t get a demolition crew scheduled.”
    Ebersviller decided to complete demo work in-house by stripping all the tin off the roof first. The crew had a half hour left when Ebersviller figures he stepped over a rafter that must have been cracked. The tin buckled underneath him.
    “I didn’t fall right away,” Ebersviller said. “My brother scooted over to grab me. I went down before he got over to me.”
    Ebersviller fell, hit the feed lane pipe railing, slid down the right side and landed in the feed in the manger. Direct impact was on Ebersviller’s abdomen just below his sternum down to just above his belly button. Sliding off the pipe tore a large opening in his abdomen.
    “When I hit the ground I looked up, and I saw my brother come down,” Ebersviller said.
    His brother also fell from the roof and landed on his tailbone on a pipe. Fortunately, it was directly on the tailbone and did not damage any vertebrae.
    Ebersviller yelled at his brother to see if he was OK but by that point, Ebersviller knew he was in trouble himself.
    “I couldn’t move,” Ebersviller said. “The first thing that went through my mind was that this is not going to be good.”
    The rest of the crew on the roof went to the aid of Ebersviller and his brother and called 911 immediately.
    Emergency personnel from Vergas were on scene within minutes with two Life Link helicopters en route from Fargo, North Dakota.
    Ambulances transported the two injured brothers to an open field where the helicopters could land to take them to Sanford Health in Fargo.
    “They brought two units of blood for me which was used up in the first 10 minutes,” Ebersviller said. “I was bleeding internally pretty fast.”
    Once he arrived at the hospital, Ebersviller went into surgery to repair the damaged organs. His intestines and stomach were torn. Surgery was done to repair the organs and remove sections.
    “The surgeon wasn’t too sure he would be operating on me after I had lost so much blood,” Ebersviller said. “They thought I would be dead before I got to the hospital.”
    In a coma and on a ventilator, Ebersviller does not recall the first week he was in the hospital.
    “My wife and a nurse were both with me when I woke up a week later,” Ebersviller said. “I was pretty confused.”
    In the coming weeks, Ebersviller would endure 14 surgeries to repair organs. In addition, Ebersviller had a high risk of infection from his injuries. He spent 63 days in the hospital.
    “I did have a lot of infection,” Ebersviller said. “Until you get that all under control, you are pretty vulnerable.”
    Back at the farm, Ebersvillers’ sons, Dustin and Derek, were key in completing daily milkings, feeding chores and fieldwork while both their father and uncle recovered from their injuries.
    Ebersviller recalls his recovery in the hospital as a long and miserable stay.
    “I feel sorry for people who have to spend an extensive amount of time in the hospital,” Ebersviller said. “Especially after you start feeling better.”
    At the end of August, Ebersviller was released from the hospital and continues recovery at home. He is very weak and needs to have the wound dressing changed twice a day.
    Ebersviller was able to chop corn this fall and operate the haybine to do fourth cutting hay and third cutting clover.
    “The hardest part was getting up in the chopper or haybine, but once you’re in, it’s mostly hand controls,” Ebersviller said.
    Ebersviller is looking to gain back the 50 pounds he lost after his accident meanwhile staying active as part of his rehabilitation. Duane spent 10 days in the hospital, wore a back brace for several months and continues his recovery at home.
    This accident came just over four years after Ebersviller was attacked by a fresh cow while checking on cows in a close-up pen. He sustained three broken ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured skull, a broken nose and a shattered right cheekbone.
    “It’s kind of the luck of the draw,” Ebersviller said of enduring two farm accidents. “Some situations, especially with a cow, is unavoidable when you consider how often a farmer checks on a cow to see if she needs help with calving.”
    Knowing some accidents are unavoidable, Ebersviller urges farmers to be careful, especially with children on the farm.
    “Some farmers have their kids check the cows,” Ebersviller said. “A smaller person could be snapped in half pretty easily by a cow.”
    Ebersviller also encourages vigilance when completing tasks on the farm.
    “If it takes an extra day to get the project done, so be it,” Ebersviller said. “Obviously it ended up taking me a lot longer because I wasn’t as vigilant as I should’ve been.”