PENFIELD TWP. — Lloyd Gordon stood in his backyard, looking out over the freshly harvested soybean fields.
As the sun began to set, it cast a ray of light on the trees bordering the acres of land, highlighting the colors of fall — burnt orange, golden yellow and rustic brown.
“I love this time of year,” Lloyd Gordon exclaimed. “I love the fall weather.”
However, 11 weeks ago today, Lloyd Gordon, 64, wasn’t so sure he would live to see the seasons change from summer into fall.
The morning of Aug. 4, wasn’t a “typical” Sunday for the Gordon family.
Instead of attending the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick’s roman Catholic Church in Wellington together, they went their separate ways.
Sue, who is a registered nurse at EMH Regional Medical Center, spent her day off at her daughter’s home in Cuyahoga Falls.
“I was helping Rachel pull weeds because we were going to have a family picnic there in the afternoon,” Sue said.
It was too early for Lloyd to head to the family picnic in Cuyahoga Falls, so he opted to spend an hour or two at the Gordon Family Farm.
Farming is a job that is done seven days a week, 365 days a year and Lloyd knew there was work to be done with the hay.
“I went by myself, which is normal. The hay needed to be fluffed,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd began fixing the hay tedder hook behind the tractor — a “normal fix-it job” he called it.
As he climbed the tractor to fix the tedder hook behind the seat, his foot slipped.
By instinct, he quickly grabbed the first thing his hand felt — the gear shift and throttle which put the tractor in motion and sent him to the ground, directly in line with a tire from the 1,200-pound piece of farm equipment.
Lloyd’s body was crushed.
The Gordon’s niece, Adele Flynn, 28, witnessed the accident.
“I was on my four-wheeler, heading out to the barn,” Adele Flynn said.
Adele Flynn screamed for her husband, Eric Flynn, who was on the couch inside the family’s home located on the property.
“My dad is Will Gordon so I grew up around tractors and luckily I knew how to shut it off,” Adele Flynn said.
As Adele Flynn was stopping the tractor and calling 911, Eric Flynn ran from the house to see what went wrong.
“Lloyd was conscious the entire time, but then he had blood coming from his mouth and Eric turned him on his side and rubbed his chest,” Adele Flynn said.
If Eric Flynn had waited 30 seconds longer to turn Lloyd over, he would have died.
“His lungs were full of blood, and he would have died of aspiration,” Sue said, adding that only medically trained professionals should move an injured/unstable patient, but in this case, Eric relied on his instinct and it saved Lloyd’s life.
When the First Responder arrived at the scene, he recognized the man on the ground as a Penfield Township Trustee since the 1990s and a member of the Southern Lorain County Ambulance District.
After assessing the situation, he immediately ordered Life Flight even though an ambulance was already en route.
“We all know that out in the country, there are no small accidents,” Sue said.
By happenstance, Life Flight was conducting test runs in the area and was already up in the air when the 911 call came in to the station.
It was 10:06 a.m. on Aug. 4.
The next time Lloyd would see the world around him would be three weeks later.
The first few days
In Sue’s medical opinion, her husband is lucky to be alive.
“On paper, he’s a train wreck,” she said.
Lloyd’s chart at MetroHealth Medical Center read like a medical dictionary with words such as cerebral hematoma; air around his brain; carotid dissection; broken clavicle; pelvic bleeding; fractured pelvis; collapsed lungs; broken facial bones; broken jaw; and 12 broken ribs.
In order to allow his body to heal, Lloyd was intubated and sedated.
When he finally woke up, Lloyd saw and heard doctors, Sue and his family talking over him but he could not communicate with them.
It was then Lloyd realized he could not speak.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Lloyd said.
Eventually, Sue gave her husband a steno pad and a brown marker, hoping he could communicate through the written-word.
The “note” ended up being a brown scribbled line — something their 2-year-old grandson Matthew Gordon could have drawn.
The next day, she gave him the notepad, hoping he could remember how to write a few simple words.
It was enough of a scribble for Sue to decipher the words Lloyd tried to convey to her — “Going home?”
The road to recovery
Each day Lloyd spent at MetroHealth Medical Center, he improved.
He never contracted pneumonia. He never had a stroke. His heart never gave out.
He was at a risk for so many infections, but he never even got a cold, Sue said.
“Everything that should have been done for him, they did. The care was excellent, the communication was excellent. They saved his life,” Sue said, holding back tears. “It was a miracle.”
No one knows for certain why Lloyd recovered as quickly as he did from the accident that nearly claimed his life.
But, Lloyd believes his career as a dairy farmer helped his recovery.
“I was fit before. Being a dairy farmer, we milk our own cows and we are used to being up and around. Most farmers are like that,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd also drinks unpasteurized milk — “straight from the cows” as he calls it.
When Sue first saw the CAT scan taken hours after Lloyd was admitted into the hospital, nearly every bone in his face, clavicle and pelvis were not just broken, but crushed.
Near the end of his stay, Lloyd’s doctors ordered another CAT scan to see if there was improvement.
And what the doctors and nurses saw was nothing short of a miracle, Sue said.
“His bones are actually stronger now,” Sue said.
Lloyd was discharged from the hospital Sept. 20 — earlier than anyone expected, and it allowed Lloyd and Sue to spend their 40th wedding anniversary together Sept. 29.
“I get better every day and I can do a little more every day. I was very lucky,” Lloyd said. “The only way I’m gonna get better is if I do it myself.”
Back on the farm
Farming is rooted in the Gordon family.
Lloyd’s father began milking cows in 1939.
“It’s a way of life,” Lloyd said. “Farming is such a bond with a tight-knit group.”
However, in July, Will Gordon, 68, and Bob Gordon, 62, along with Lloyd and Eric Flynn, agreed to sell the 80 cows to another dairy farmer.
“We all want to retire from farming and our kids don’t want to farm, except Eric, and I can’t help now,” Lloyd said of the final decision.
But even though the Gordon Family Farms sold the cows, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on the 1,100-acre property.
Before Lloyd’s accident, soybeans were planted.
Several weeks ago, the soybeans were ready to be harvested and Lloyd desperately wanted to climb into his combine to help.
“I drove my golf cart into the field and they all just drove right by me,” Lloyd said with a laugh. “I just wanted to be there.”
Sue admits that her husband’s desire to get back to farming puts her on edge.
Yet she also knows being a farmer is in Lloyd’s blood.
“I have been back on the tractor. I wanted to see what happened. It took a second to happen,” Lloyd said.
It was a second that changed the Gordon’s life.
Their children, Jake Gordon, 32; Mark Gordon, 30; Beth Gordon, 28; and Rachel McCarty, 27, are thankful every day that their dad survived.
“We are all so thankful for my mom’s amazing knowledge, strength, patience and love for our father. Dad is so appreciative and in such a great state of mind. He is so positive, thankful and hardworking,” Rachel McCarty wrote on the family’s Caring Bridge website.
Outpouring of community support
Living in the country, there are no boundaries.
A farm is a farm and if a fellow farmer is in need of help, there is no question of “Should I help?”
“I’d do this for someone else,” Lloyd said without hesitating.
Since the accident, farmers have stopped by to see how they can help.
Some have offered to help harvest; mow the grass; take out the garbage; tend the flowerbeds; and prepare meals.
“It’s just the way people are out here. This brings out the closeness and love and we are very fortunate,” Lloyd said as he dabbed his eyes.
Lloyd’s prognosis is good, but there still are a few limitations on what he can and cannot do.
His weeks are filled with visits to doctors and therapists, but for now that is his new “normal.”
“This has slowed me down a lot,” Lloyd said.
But, it has slowed him down in a good way, Sue said.
“Our lives are based on the seasons, but now he is promising to take me where I want to go — Glacier National Park,” Sue said, smiling.