Nebraska man survives life-threatening injury, faces life as an amputee with a smile

LINCOLN, NE — A southeast Nebraska man who suffered a life-threatening injury is thankful for what he’s learned from his traumatic event.

“They didn’t have a choice as far as where to amputate me at,” Jim Earnhart said.  “It was what I was left with.”

That was the situation facing trauma surgeons at Bryan West Medical Center in Lincoln on August 13th last year.  Plymouth resident Jim Earnhart was suffering from a fractured femur, shattered foot, cracked ribs, a fractured vertebrae and massive blood loss after he was crushed by an 1100-pound pipe on the job.  Dr. Stanley Okosun was the medical director in charge that day.

“He was critically, very ill,” Okosun said.  “He was going into shock, his blood pressure was very low by the time he came to the trauma center. So, a very low probability of survival.”

Jim spent over six weeks in the hospital, lost his left arm and left leg, and wears a boot on his right foot.  But he’s walking, he’s doing household chores, and he hopes to start driving soon.  Jim credits his incredible recovery to family, friends and what he calls ‘God dominoes.’

“Any one of those gets pulled out and this story goes completely different,” Jim said.  “If the pipe would have landed 10 inches to the right, it would have been directly on my head.  I caught it with a glancing blow off my chest and down my body instead of directly on top of me.”

Jim’s wife Amy stayed overnight at the hospital for two straight weeks to be with him.  She says his positivity and determination got him through.

“He had all of these goals, like the first one was to stand up,” Amy said.  “The second one was, ‘I’d really like to stand up for longer than two seconds.’  To see him achieve those goals is wonderful.”

Dr. Okosun says Jim was a special patient.

“He had the drive to survive and we just facilitated that for him,” Okosun said.  “That’s why his case was unique.”

A friend asked Jim if he would trade his experiences of the last year to get his arms and legs back.  He he wouldn’t.

“God taught me a lot through this and not necessarily anything bad,” Jim said.  “I’ve learned there are important things in life and there are times you will be tested and times you will have to learn to overcome.”

Jim earned Bryan Health’s Trauma Champion award for 2019.  He will be honored at a ceremony at the Cornhusker Marriott on Thursday.