Olive Twp.’s ‘Naked Farmer’ grateful
Olive Township — Tim Vander Zwaag confidently walks through his house without assistance and has a firm handshake with a wide smile.
And he laughs, even at his nickname: The Naked Farmer.
“It’s a very unique story,” he told The Holland Sentinel in his home in Olive Township, more than a year since his farming accident and a lifetime since family, friends and doctors wondered if he would survive another day. “In a funny way, we’re blessed.”
His wife, Teresa, agreed.
“It took his clothes, not Tim,” she said.
Tim stepped off his tractor about 5 p.m. Dec. 7, 2013, and grabbed a pitch fork to clean the manure spreader when he slipped and the spinning power take-off shaft of the tractor caught his Carhartts and pulled him into the space where the PTO connects to the manure spreader. The spinning power take-off beat him against the spreader, pulled off all his clothes and threw him naked into the snow.
He was bleeding, had four fractured ribs, damaged vertebrae, a broken femur, a displaced hip, crushed ankle, lacerated spleen, a scalp laceration and his hand was cut. He tried to find his phone, but it had been crushed.
Tim managed to get back on the tractor and while in terrible pain and still without any clothes on, he worked the pedals and drove a quarter mile to the nearest road. An off-duty firefighter happened to be passing by and began to help.
Doctors said that if Tim had been in the cold another 10 minutes, he would have died from hypothermia.
After surgeries in Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, he went through therapy, then more reconstructive surgery in January 2014 before he could return home. He continued with in-home therapy through May, working from a wheelchair, to crutches, a cane and now, a walk with a limp.
There were tough days and difficult times, Tim and Teresa agree, but their faith kept them moving ahead.
As of Dec. 16, just over a year since the accident, he was cleared by his doctors.
“It’s miraculous healing,” Tim said. “I can do almost everything I could do before, just at a slower pace.”
And that includes farming, which he resumed in June, including the harvest in the fall.
“Being outside is good physical therapy,” he said, smiling. “I’m going to push forward. I’m going to do everything I want to do in life.”
“That attitude is a gift from God,” Teresa said.