Town man who survived baling accident impresses doctors with his fighting spirit
Town of Belgium dairy farmer Matt Winker, who survived a horrific farm accident on Sept. 5, is making such a remarkable recovery that his doctors at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa will start weaning him off the drugs that have kept him in a coma.
Family members met Tuesday with a dozen doctors, nurses and others involved in Matt’s care.
“I never saw so many doctors in one room before,” Matt’s father Tom Winker said. “They’re cautiously optimistic. They feel very good about how things are healing. They had him on so many drugs and they’re trying to take him off some of it to get him more alert, to sit up and be more active.”
The infectious disease doctor is now questioning if Matt, 32, has a fungal infection in his left lung, which was punctured during the accident, Winker said.
“He believes he would find the same thing in every farmer’s lungs because they are around it (the fungus) all the time,” Winker and his wife Holly said in an e-mail Tuesday night to family and friends.
“We will wait for more tests, but that would be good news. He has a good immune system, which is a big plus at fighting this. He does have pneumonia in his right lung, but they are good at fighting that and showed no worry.”
The doctors also said they believe Matt will have full lung function, but may have chronic back pain.
Every day Matt has survived has been a gift from God, Winker said.
“He’s just so lucky to be alive,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the three people who were there and knew what to do, he wouldn’t be here. The Lord was definitely with him or he wouldn’t have made it this far.”
On Sept 5, Matt was baling hay for his uncle Joe Ott at 5505 Six Mile Rd. Shortly after 4 p.m., the two men met in the field to switch tractors so Matt could go home.
When he got off his tractor, Matt saw wire on the baler spool and reached in with his right arm to pull it out.
At the same time, the hydraulic arm of the baler locked into the next bale, hit Winker’s arm and pulled him into the baler as the machine completed the cycle.
“When it completed the cycle, it locked back into place and Matt’s body fell to the ground,” Winker said last week.
The process took less than a minute, he said.
Ott’s wife Clare who was nearby applied pressure to the gaping wound on Matt’s back to try to slow the blood loss while her husband called 911.
Mark Theisen, an emergency medical technician with the Belgium Fire Department who lives next door to Ott, arrived first.
Theisen took one look at Matt and called for Flight for Life and the Port Washington Paramedic Unit, Winker said.
“Those few things really, truly saved Matt’s life,” Winker said last week and repeated Tuesday.
The Flight for Life helicopter landed in the field and a blood transfusion was started. Matt needed 34 units of blood.
Matt’s ribs were torn from his spine, the muscles along the spine were ripped and he had multiple rib fractures. Titanium rods were inserted into his back and two puncture wounds in his left lung were repaired on Sept. 5.
Matt’s upper left arm, which was broken in several places, was set and is in a cast. His shoulder blades were also broken, but are expected to heal without surgery, Winker said.
On Sept. 11, Matt underwent surgery to close the large wound in his back. Skin from the back of his legs was used for the graft.
Matt, his wife Sarah and their daughters Maggie, 6, and Mikayla, 13, live at 6395 Six Mile Rd. The couple purchased the farm from Matt’s parents and have 165 milking cows.