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Iowa teen tells farm injury survival story in new DVD

Kristi Ruth and farm safety display

Her jacket is torn; her Mustang Track and Field sweat shirt is shredded and bloody. But Kristi Ruth still has her arm — and it still works, sort of. This Iowa 4-H’er and farm safety advocate is a farm injury survivor. She considers herself lucky and tells her story in “My Name Is Kristi,” a new DVD from ISU Extension.

The teenager was working with her family on their Lucas County farm on Feb. 18, 2007, when her arm became entangled in a posthole digger’s power takeoff (PTO) shaft.

Her father, Joe Ruth, said, “I was actually watching her brother more than Kristi. I didn’t even realize she was that close.”

Kristi, too, was more concerned about her brother Jake’s safety. When the auger head began to shake and hit the side of the barn, Kristi said, “I instinctively reached out to stabilize it, and moments after, my glove got caught on the spinning shear bolt. Within seconds my arm was pulled in and wrapped around the shaft up to my shoulder.”

Her brother Josh remarked that the PTO shaft “flattened her entire arm. … It looked like string around a stick.”

“I was life-flighted to Des Moines, then on to Iowa City, all the while thinking I was going to lose my arm,” Kristi explained. “After several hours and many doctors later, I had my first surgery to repair the severed artery, which would provide blood flow back to my hand. Surgeons performed two more operations over the next four days where they placed a hinge, stainless steel plates and numerous screws in my arm.”

Since then Kristi has undergone months of physical therapy and faces more surgery to improve the movement in her fingers. She also has been telling her story during farm safety speeches and now in this ISU Extension DVD. “My Name Is Kristi” (VID 59) is available for $8 plus shipping and handling from ISU Extension’s Online Store.

“Safety must be a part of every decision we make and it should be instinctual,” said Chuck Schwab, ISU Extension safety specialist who oversaw production of the DVD. “You have to protect yourself first.”

That’s the key message from Kristi’s story. Schwab said the DVD is appropriate for use by individual families, 4-H clubs, civic groups and others interested in safety issues.

This article appeared in August 2009 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter