Plainfield man survives terrifying farming accident

Matthew Sercer was seriously injured in a farming accident in December.

A Plainfield man nearly lost his leg and his life last December in a major farming accident.

Now, his survival story has inspired IU Health to create a new program to send surgeons out of the hospital and right to a trauma scene.

Just outside Plainfield, the joy of farming and its inherent danger came crashing together for 20-year-old Matthew Sercer, in a machine that literally took a bite out of him.

"I'm real lucky, I guess," Sercer said. "I've been on the farm forever. Reckon I'll be on one forever. But I'm lucky to be alive. Better than I was seven months ago."

Matthew was finishing up harvest, cleaning an empty silage wagon. He says he was in a hurry and made the mistake of leaving the auger on while he worked.

"I wasn't paying attention. I backed into the auger and it grabbed me. I could feel it wrapping me around. I'd see the light and see the dark and see the light again. The tractor was still running and I was stuck in there. I mean it had my legs all wrapped around everything. It was just a mess. I couldn't move," Sercer said.

He was in serious trouble, in an isolated cornfield where he very well could have been laying injured for hours. But during the accident, he actually signaled for help without even knowing it.

"A friend was out there hunting and he just happened to see Matthew's hat fly out of the auger," said Matthew's mom, Lorraine Mongan. "They didn't see Matthew inside there, but they saw his hat fly up over it, so they had a bad feeling and went to check it out."

That hat led to help and eventually Lifeline, which flew him to IU Health Methodist Hospital. A team of trauma surgeons and orthopedic surgeons replenished his blood supply, revived him and rebuilt his left leg, which nearly had to be amputated.

His right heel, torn off by the auger, is now held together with pins and rods. Matthew has undergone six surgeries. His seventh, which will allow his left knee to bend, is planned for this fall.

"It's a miracle. I shouldn't be here. That's all you can call it," Sercer said.

Because of Matthew's case, IU Health is developing a new program - a "go team" of field response surgeons to make saving life and limb even faster.

They actually got a call for a surgeon during Matthew's accident, in case his leg needed to be amputated and realized there was no protocol in place to make trauma surgeons more mobile.

"Opportunities to improve the patient's outcome, to save legs and to save lives, they can be lost by those precious minutes. (With this new program) The Lifeline team would go pick up the surgeon with the bag of instruments, equipment they'd need, and deliver them to that scene," explained IU Health Trauma Services Director Dr. Larry Reed.

The new emergency treatment is funded through a grant. IU Health surgeons are in training right now, with the program set to launch in October. It was all inspired by a young farmer, who's now walking, even working back in the fields.

"The first thing I did when I got there is climbed in the wagon that ate me. I had to sit there and talk to it," Sercer said. "I talked to it. I asked it why. It didn't answer."

But Matthew does know that man and medicine triumphed over a machine that nearly killed him.