Over 1,000 people of all ages gathered at the Cottonwood Fire Hall on Saturday in a show of support for Brad Bossuyt, who lost part of his right leg in a farming accident in November.
"I can't thank everyone enough," said Bossuyt, 54, who is single and farms three miles south of Cottonwood. "It was an amazing show of support. There is no way I could do this without all of their help and support."
The event was hosted by the Cottonwood Fire Department, where Bossuyt has been a member for the last 27 years. There was a large silent auction, and a dinner with pulled pork and beef sandwiches, cole slaw, baked beans, baked potato and desserts of all kinds.
Bossuyt, who has been a grain seed driver for Farmers Coop Elevator for the past 25 years, also has a small hobby farm with some cattle and goats. Just before 6 p.m. on a windy and frigid Veterans Day (Nov. 11, 2021), he was feeding a round bale to his cattle. He got off the tractor to make some adjustments and the tractor rolled forward, pinning his legs between the round bale and the bale feeder. He was able to get his left leg free, but his right leg was pinned.
"I could wiggle my leg a little bit," he said. "But when I did, the bale would move closer and I could feel it tighten and put more pressure on my leg."
With no cell phone on him and no one else on the farm, Bossuyt had to figure a way out of this accident alone.
"I had a pocket knife on me and I pulled that out and started to carve away on the hay bale to try and loosen my leg," he said. "I moved a lot of the hay, but eventually the hay was so hard and tight that I could hardly make a dent in it."
Bossuyt then started getting cold and began to use some of the hay to insulate himself and to shield the wind, which was blowing 35 mph that day.
The tractor was still running with the lights on, so Bossuyt came up with another idea that might alert passers-by on County Road 9 about 1/4 mile from where he was trapped.
"I took my ballcap off and waved it back and forth across the lights of the tractor to try and signal someone," he said. "I had three people later tell me that they saw the lights flashing but didn't realize what it was."
In the middle of the night, the tractor ran out of gas. Eventually, the battery went dead, leaving him trapped for nearly 14 hours in cold and darkness.
Fortunately, a neighbor, Charlie Olson, noticed the tractor sitting in a place that wasn't normal for that time of the day, around 8 a.m.
"(The tractor) would usually be inside at that time," Bossuyt explained. "And Charlie saw there were no tracks in the snow and figured it must have been sitting there overnight. I saw him go by the road and then I didn't see him so I figured he just kept going. And then I looked up and there he was standing by my shoulder."
Soon after, two other neighbors, Jeremy and Jance Vandelanotte, also thought something was wrong after seeing Bossuyt's cattle in the ditch next to the road, and went to investigate.
"Once people started showing up, I knew I was going to be okay, I started getting really cold," Bossuyt told. "I asked Charlie to put his coat on my back."
A call went out to 911 and within minutes EMT's and law enforcement were on the scene. After being freed, Bossuyt was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Marshall.
"They cut my leg open to relieve the pressure," Bossuyt recalls. "And they kept me as comfortable as possible. I never thought I would lose my leg."
After being at Avera Hospital in Marshall, Bossuyt was transferred to the hospital in Sioux Falls. He had surgery on the leg on Sunday, Nov. 14 and another on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
On Nov. 17, doctors said it might be best to remove the leg and then gave Bossuyt scenarios of what could happen later if he chose to try and save the leg.
"I talked things over with my sons (Anthony and Colin), brothers and others and we thought it would be best to just remove the leg," Bossuyt said.
With blood flow being cut off from his leg for so long, Bossuyt's kidneys were also affected due to toxins in the blood. He had to have dialysis to get the kidneys functioning properly again.
Because of the extreme medical expenses incurred in the 24 days he spent in the hospital, Bossuyt's cohorts from the fire department, as well as friends and family members, staged a fundraiser at the large Cottonwood Fire Hall.
"This is really special to see all these people here," said Bruce Bossuyt of Minneota, Brad's brother. "I know this means a lot to Brad and the whole family."
Brad spoke before the silent auction began, thanking everyone for coming out to support him.
"The Cottonwood firemen presented me with a plaque with my name on it," he said with his voice cracking. "I can't thank these guys I'm on the fire department with enough for all the work they did. They spent all day Friday smoking and cooking meat. And I just can't thank the EMT's and doctors and other medical people enough either. They were amazing.
Bossuyt visited the prosthesis department of the hospital in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, Feb. 15 to weigh his options.