Run-in with “Boss Hog” Leads to Emergency Treatment for Ballard Farmer
In the first few minutes after an accidental encounter with one of his hogs that caused a deep gash on his leg, Alva Thornhill did not realize he needed emergency medical attention.
Alva and his fiancé, Becki Smith, raise hogs and cattle on his family farm in Ballard, Missouri. While moving sows for breeding, he stepped between two boars to break up a fight, and as he did so, his leg became the unintended recipient of the boar’s tusk, mid swing. In that quick second, “Boss Hog”—normally a gentle animal with his caretakers—caused a significant laceration from under Alva’s kneecap to just above it.
“I really didn’t think that it hurt anything. I told Becki I needed to sit down for a minute because it felt like it made my leg numb,” Alva recalls.
Alva asked for a bandage, but a quick glance at his injury informed Becki this was not a Band-Aid situation. With the aid of their neighbor, Becki helped Alva into their truck, and she headed for the emergency room at Bates County Memorial Hospital. By the time they arrived, Alva’s sock was soaked with blood inside his chore boot.
The accident occurred around 7:30 a.m. on November 7, a Saturday. After receiving stabilizing treatment in the BCMH emergency room, it was obvious to the ER physician on call, Dr. Robert Johnston, that Alva would need immediate surgery to repair extensive damage to his leg, which included a fractured femur with damage to his ACL and other cartilage structures around his knee. Alva had surgery around 12:30 pm that day, performed by Dr. Danny Carroll, orthopedic surgeon. Alva’s stay at BCMH was extended a few days as a precaution against potential infection.
“Sometimes appearances can be deceiving, and things can be far worse than they appear,” said Dr. Ben Crary, a hospitalist physician for BCMH who cared for Alva during his stay at the hospital. “In any kind of a trauma or serious accident, you are far better off to come in and get checked out. I’ve had patients in the past in somewhat minor car accidents that had internal injuries and had poor outcomes because they delayed coming in for an assessment by a medical professional,” Dr. Crary said.
This is especially important for patients on blood-thinning medications, such as Coumadin, Warfarin or Xarelto, which reduce the blood’s ability to clot, Dr. Crary noted. “A cut or internal injury could cause a patient to continue to bleed, and not know it. This could become very serious or life-threatening.”
The decision to get immediate emergency care allowed the BCMH team to put Alva a path to a quick recovery. Looking back, Alva and Becki were grateful for the way things worked out.
“Everyone was just incredibly fast, prompt, courteous – I mean, it was really amazing to see and experience,” Becki recalled of that Saturday morning in the emergency room – likening it to a war zone. “Because, you know, this is a small-town hospital. It changed both of our perspectives, the level of service that he got when he was here.”
“The doctors, nurses, all the personnel were so good,” Alva said. “And they acted like they cared about you, it wasn’t just like you were a number, or a body lying around, they stopped and talked to you. It was nice for them to talk and act like they cared – and I’m sure they did.”
Alva’s care included follow-up services in the hospital’s outpatient orthopedic clinic, and he was able to return to light duties on the farm.
“They got me patched up so I could get going again,” he said.
“His greatest day was the day he got to climb up in the tractor,” Becki added.
Boss Hog’s Status
During Alva’s stay at BCMH, Dr. Crary chatted with him daily about his farm and his animals. He was curious if the boar that caused the accident would be sent to the butcher.
“The boar did not intend to hurt me. I just happened to be in the way,” Alva said. “Boss Hog is alive and well.”
When Should You Get Emergency Medical Help?
Sometimes, patients are unsure whether an injury warrants a visit to the emergency room. Dr. Crary says a “wait and see” strategy is extremely risky, and advises seeking immediate emergency care for accidents such as:
- A fall from a height greater than your own height
- A deep cut and/or persistent bleeding
- Any kind of injury to your chest, abdomen, head or neck