WANAMINGO, Minn. — Marshall Friese said he thought his life was over when he was pinned between the cab of his skid loader and the unloader of the mixer at his family’s farm near Wanamingo.
The morning of June 12, 2023, started as usual with Marshall mixing feed. The mixer was backed into a large feed room, and Marshall was driving a skid loader to load hay. The particular skid loader tended to creep forward and no longer had safety features.
As he was loading, hay was blocking his view of the scale. As he had done in the past, Marshall leaned up and out of the skid loader part way to move the hay out of his sightline.
“That day, (the skid loader) decided to creep forward,” Marshall said. “I don’t know if I thought I had time, or if it was revved up more than normal and just moved quicker.”
When he was initially trapped, the skid loader was not fully extended so he had room to move. But this ran out as the skid loader creeped forward. Then, Marshall feared for his life as he heard a crunching sound.
“Nobody ever checks on me when I’m doing chores,” Marshall said. “It would have been hours.”
Marshall was able to extricate himself by kicking one side of the skid loader into reverse. Before getting himself help, Marshall got back in the skid loader and turned it off so that it would not spin in circles and strike the walls or mixer.
Marshall’s family was milking 75 cows in the adjoining tiestall barn.
“I couldn’t tell them what happened because I couldn’t talk,” Marshall said. “I could hardly breathe. ... Nothing would come out.”
Complicating this was the fact that Marshall had no outward bleeding.
Marshall’s mom, Becky, drove him to a clinic in Wanamingo then to Cannon Falls to get an X-ray for broken ribs.
In the waiting room at Cannon Falls, still unable to speak and with hospital staff unaware of how serious his injury was, Marshall began to pass out, first losing his sight then his hearing.
Marshall was eventually air lifted to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
Marshall’s wife of less than three months, Alyssa, was working at Mayo Clinic when she heard news of an accident. At the time, she was told a skid loader bucket had fallen on Marshall.
“It was all the feelings but nothing at the same time,” Alyssa said.
The official diagnosis was a grade-5 lacerated liver — grade 5 being the most severe possible — but no broken ribs.
After undergoing an embolization procedure to stop the internal bleeding from three blood vessels, Marshall spent four days in the intensive care unit. He followed this with another four days in the hospital before heading home.
Before the accident, Marshall had worked full time on his family’s dairy farm, Rodash-View, near Wanamingo, alongside his dad, David, mom and brother, Josh. In his absence, one of his close friends from childhood, Parker Erickson, mixed feed every day for five months.
“I didn’t really second guess it,” Erickson said. “I just figured he’s in need and needs help. And, if it was the other way around, he’d do the same.”
Erickson woke early to mix feed before going to work at his custom cattle hauling business or on his own beef and crop farm. In the evenings, he would mix again and visit with Alyssa when she needed someone to talk to after her shift at the hospital.
“I just added a couple hours to the day,” Erickson said. “I’d do it all over again if I had to.”
Marshall’s brother-in-law also coordinated help so Marshall’s custom wrapping business could continue in his absence.
The Frieses received other community support, including offers to help with chores and house cleaning and food and household supplies.
“I truly never felt alone throughout the experience,” Alyssa said.
From the day of the accident on, the Frieses were in and out of the hospital for six admissions. Marshall accumulated about six weeks in the hospital.
One of these admissions was July 6, 2023. Alyssa was upstairs getting ready for her volleyball league when she heard Marshall shout.
Downstairs, the drain on Marshall’s liver was filled with blood.
“(It) felt like somebody stabbed me in the chest with a knife,” Marshall said.
Alyssa grabbed a container to empty the drain, and they drove to the hospital. They had driven a short distance when Marshall said he needed an ambulance.
At the hospital, medical staff determined Marshall had a pseudoaneurysm. To stop the bleeding, he underwent another embolization procedure.
Alyssa said they were in and out of the hospital until Marshall could have surgery on his liver.
“The second we would go back home, infection would start,” Alyssa said.
Marshall had multiple drains in the three months before surgery. These drains helped remove the blood and bile as well as the decaying liver on the right lobe from the laceration. In the first 15 days post-injury, they drained about 10 liters of fluid from his body.
Through the months, the drains were often up-sized, replaced or put into a different place to drain pockets of fluid. They drained fluid from the liver area, the pleural cavity — where fluid would put pressure on Marshall’s lungs making it difficult to breath — and other areas of his body.
On Sept. 19, 2023, Marshall had surgery to remove the right lobe of his liver and his gallbladder. Marshall has not been admitted to the hospital since his post-surgery hospital stay.
In October, Marshall was able to drive combine for a friend, and in November, he started working on the dairy farm again.
Marshall goes to the farm once a day. Marshall moves slower and does not shovel or carry buckets but said he hopes to be close to normal by spring.
Marshall is mixing feed with the same mixer and skid loader that caused the accident. Now however, he takes time for safety precautions.
“I’d rather waste three minutes of my daily chores than six months of my life,” Marshall said.
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