NORTH ANNVILLE TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Randy Kleinfelter is the kind of guy who can find a silver lining in almost any circumstance, a fortunate trait given a farming accident left him seriously injured in early April.
Instead of bemoaning the lengthy period of recovery that lies ahead of him, Randy notes that, since he’s currently unable to drive, the sharp increase in gasoline prices hasn’t been a hardship for him.
Although Randy doesn’t currently live on a farm, he grew up working on farms and comes from a long line of farmers. He’s been involved with dairy cattle for over 40 years as a clipper getting cows ready for the sale ring or looking their best for classifications.
He started in this trade working alongside his late father, Stanley Kleinfelter, at the New Holland Sales Stables.
Eventually, Stanley focused more on hoof trimming while Randy specialized in clipping. In recent years, Randy has been providing weekly cow clipping services at New Holland, as well as clipping on a casual basis for other dairy animal sales.
All of that reached an unexpected halt in the early morning hours of April 7.
Randy was the night man for a Brownstown-area cow sale to be held by auctioneer Bob Landis later that day.
Around 1:50 am, Randy noticed a cow had broken free and was wandering in an aisle of the barn. As Randy describes it, “When I went to grab onto her chain, I must’ve spooked her,” and as he struggled to keep up with the started Holstein, his foot slipped on the gutter ridge and he fell head-first into another cow.
Although he experienced severe pain in his neck and head, Randy managed to make it through the night, even feeding the heifers, until he was relieved around 6:45 am at the end of his shift.
He drove himself 32 miles back home, where his level of pain sent him to a local urgent care center. The personnel there had him transported by ambulance to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
At Hershey, an initial X-ray led to an MRI and then a CT scan. Randy was ultimately admitted to the medical center, with three broken vertebrae in his upper neck.
It wasn’t a diagnosis anyone wants to receive, but Randy was able to find a silver lining. He was told the fractures came very near to leaving him paralyzed or worse; one of his injured vertebrae had the so-called “hangman’s fracture.”
Doctors told him he didn’t require surgery because he hit the cow squarely, so the fractures were held in place by the swelling. Randy was instead fitted with a cumbersome brace encircling his body from head to waist.
He must continue wearing it until early August, when he expects to be fitted with a smaller brace and hopefully be able to start receiving physical therapy.
While his physicians say he should be able to return to work after Christmas, Randy hopes their recommendation to use a bone stimulator device for four hours a day will live up to its potential to heal his damaged vertebrae within six months.
Ironically, this horse collar-shaped apparatus was invented by a veterinarian to hasten the healing of broken bones in horses. It offers Randy the prospect that he could regain a somewhat normal level of activity by November.
Randy has health insurance, but it hasn’t covered all the medical expenses. In addition, he doesn’t have any type of worker’s compensation coverage or sick leave because he’s self-employed. Thus, he is without income until he’s able to resume working.
He is also eager to heal so that he can continue his role as primary caregiver for his 88-year-old mother, Mamie Eberly Kleinfelter, who has a number of health problems, including short-term memory loss. As a result, she cannot be left alone.
Currently, Randy’s sister and three brothers take turns looking after both their mother and Randy while he’s laid up.
During his many years of clipping cows, Randy has come in contact with numerous farmers and others who appreciate both his skills and his congenial personality.
When they learned of Randy’s plight and realized he would be without income for an extended period of time, these friends and acquaintances took action.
For Randy 60th birthday in May, his sister, Joyce Kreiser, organized a card shower in hopes of having at least 60 cards sent his way. He received over 80 cards, many of which enclosed monetary gifts along with their good wishes.
Joyce’s church, Moonshine United Zion, sent him a basket of gifts, with instructions to open one per day; among them was a fun cow replica.
A lifelong family acquaintance found another way to extend a helping hand. Early in their married life, Randy’s parents had rented half of a farmhouse owned by Victor Bachman. Victor’s son, Harry Bachman, grew up next to the Kleinfelters, creating a bond between the two families that remains to this day.
Harry, a well-known central Pennsylvania auctioneer, organized a June 14 benefit auction. Held at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center, the event attracted 150 people.
Donated auction items included furniture and tools, a quilt that sold for $550, pies and cakes that sold for up to $100 each, and a home-cooked dinner for eight that sold for $650. In the end, over $10,000 was raised to assist Randy.
Randy is grateful to all who contributed.
Perhaps the most challenging part of Randy’s recovery is that being an active man forced to take it easy is anything but easy.
He prided himself on working for New Holland Sales Stables for 40 years while only missing work for his father’s funeral in 1999 and for a bout of COVID-19 last year.
While his doctors encourage him to walk, he’s not permitted to lift more than 20 pounds, and when riding in a vehicle he must sit in the back seat so he would not be struck if an airbag deploys.
For a guy who not only clipped dairy animals, but also supplemented his income by collecting scrap and mowing lawns, its difficult to be so limited.
While waiting to heal, Randy spends his time playing brain-stimulating games with his mother, reading, watching old television shows and doing word games on the computer. Riding along to the grocery store or to yard sales now qualifies as a special treat.
Yet, Randy says, given what happened, “I don’t think there’s any way things could’ve gone better.”
That’s positive thinking for you.