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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Heavin recovering following tractor accident

Thursday, August 2, 2012

BAINBRIDGE -- Sixteen hours trapped under a tractor gives a man a lot of time to think and pray.

After all that time alone, Dr. Robert Heavin believes he experienced a miracle this weekend.

Heavin, 60, is the previously unidentified man rescued by Floyd Township and Danville firefighters on Sunday morning following a Saturday evening tractor accident on his rural Bainbridge farm.

Heavin was trapped beneath this tractor for nearly 16 hours on Saturday night.
How Heavin managed to avoid serious injury under an overturned tractor -- he suffered only two broken ribs and "a bunch of bruises" -- is next to impossible to explain.

"I take it to be a miracle," Heavin said. "I don't know how else to explain it, in terms of that."

Heavin contacted the Banner Graphic on Wednesday to recount his ordeal and thank those who prayed for him during his hospital stay.

It all started with some simple cleanup on Heavin's property at around 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

"I was moving a pile of rock that had been there for a while and I just picked up too heavy a load," Heavin said.

As he was moving the rocks, Heavin came over a small rise and began to pick up speed as he went down a hill. He quickly knew something was wrong, but could not shut the tractor down or lower the bucket fast enough.

"It just kept going faster and faster, like a demon possessed," Heavin said. "There were no brakes because the load was too heavy in the bucket. So I just shut the throttle down and started lowering the bucket, but it wouldn't go down fast enough.

"Then it dropped off into a little hole and I felt it start to turn over. I tried to get off of it. Unfortunately, when I got off of it, I got my foot caught and fell over."

The tractor kept turning over, but Heavin was fortunate to find himself in a place he would not be crushed.

"I was in the only place that I could be, in between the fender and the loader arm," Heavin said. "When it inverted itself totally over, my head came into a little hole in the ground and the steering wheel was on top of my head and across my neck. I was pinned there. I couldn't move."

Although his head and neck were pinned, Heavin said he was fortunate with their exact placement -- his head was between two spokes of the wheel, and the rim of the wheel was across his neck -- but he could still breathe.

He was able to dig some of the rock from around his head with a Leatherman knife but could not free himself.

At that point, all that was left was to wait and pray.

"Me and my Good Lord had a good, long talk," Heavin said.

As a man who lives alone except for a couple of dogs, Heavin could not expect anyone to come looking for him terribly soon. He said one of the animals stayed with him and even tried to get help a couple of times.

"I told her to go get help," Heavin said. "Actually, around 3 a.m. she went over and got all the dogs in the neighborhood barking. My neighbor actually came out on the porch and looked, but he couldn't see me from where he was at."

The same thing happened again at 5 a.m., unfortunately with the same result.

As Heavin continued to wait under the tractor, things were complicated when the hydraulics in the power steering failed. This meant the wheel tried to settle, with the steering knob continuing to turn back toward his neck.

"I was getting tired of trying to hold the knob off of my neck," he said.

As dawn broke, the situation began looking worse.

"The tractor settled again around daybreak and got a little bit closer. I thought, 'This is gonna be it,'" Heavin said. "I just kept praying. I felt like if God was going to do me in, at least not to torture me too long."

A visit from Heavin's son Kyle in late morning set the rescue in motion.

"Around 10 o'clock or so, little white lights showed up and I thought, 'Well I'm hallucinating, getting heat exhaustion.' Then I heard a four-wheeler but it went the other direction."

Heavin assumed it was the sound of his neighbor feeding his hogs.

"My son came over to get some fire wood. He knew I didn't make it to early church," Heavin said. "He came in the house and saw the crockpot was still on. The cell phone was on the four-wheeler, unfortunately."

Knowing something was wrong, Kyle searched the property. When he found the overturned tractor with his father underneath, he thought the worst.

"He kind of went ballistic when he found me. With my legs sticking out there, he thought I was dead," the elder Heavin said. "I couldn't talk very loud, so I had to wait for him to kind of quit screaming before I could tell him I was OK."

The authorities were soon alerted, with both fire departments, as well as Operation Life and St. Vincent Stat Flight responding to the scene.

"My sons came over there and they helped hold the steering wheel out of my neck for the 45 minutes it took to get the tractor raised up," Heavin said. "I only needed about two or three inches to get my head out. I had it dug out but I just couldn't quite make it all the way. Plus, I was getting pretty weak and tired at that point."

Somehow, his most serious injuries were the broken ribs, sustained when the loader arm poked him in the side.

The longtime Putnam County Hospital physician lobbied his rescuers to take him to those familiar walls, but he was overruled.

"I tried to get them to take me to Greencastle, but they said the helicopter doesn't take you to critical access hospitals," Heavin said.

Upon arrival at St. Vincent in Indianapolis, he found familiar caretakers anyway.

"It turned out that the doctor I normally use up at St. Vincent was the one on call that day. Actually, a nurse I had worked with at Greencastle was working in the ER too, so I felt in good hands," he said.

With minimal injuries considering the circumstances, Heavin was out of the hospital as of Wednesday morning, staying with one of his sons in Greencastle.

"I think I'm gonna make it," he said. "I just really want to thank everybody for their prayers and concern. I truly appreciate that."

Perhaps as an aid to the recovery process, Heavin was even able to find a bit of humor in certain details of his ordeal.

"It was an interesting experience, I guess," the doctor said with a chuckle. "I was little claustrophobic but I don't think I'm claustrophobic anymore."

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Glad you're ok, doc!

-- Posted by bcqmom on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 12:09 AM

What an amazing story, showing others the potential dangers of tractors, your endurance and faith, and the grace of God. Glad you are ok and still have your humor intact!

-- Posted by marvel_s_lee_blessed on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 12:00 PM

So very glad that you are going to be alright. We can't afford to lose any more good doctors. And you are very welcome for the prayers.

-- Posted by interestedperson#1 on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 12:32 PM

Thanks for sharing your story and your faith. You are a gem in many ways.

-- Posted by BG-reader on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 1:36 PM


-- Posted by lhmh on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 2:49 PM

What's next for you? You wreck your scooter trying to miss a rooster, roll your tractor, now what jumping the Grand Canyon in your truck. Slow down and enjoy life, your kids,and grandkids. Take care! From the guy who walks sideways. And is 12 days older than you!

-- Posted by jddale on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 4:47 PM

WOW! What an ordeal! I'm a Christian too, but I think I would have been panicking! So glad you weren't hurt more seriously! Will be praying for your speedy and smooth recovery!

-- Posted by Pam Posthauer on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 7:19 PM

Glad you are ok Doc. Much better to read this story than your obituary.

-- Posted by T5773fmore on Thu, Aug 2, 2012, at 7:33 PM

I agree completely, great to hear the Doc is ok and back to work now.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Fri, Aug 3, 2012, at 9:26 PM

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