Thompson makes amazing recovery after falling 30 feet
On Nov. 8, 2021, life took an abrupt turn – make that an abrupt drop – for Mark Thompson of Red Oak. Thompson, a tree trimmer for 31 years, doesn’t remember falling approximately 30 feet from the tree. And he doesn’t remember the landing. However, he was told he landed on his feet which resulted in his face, jaw, nose, and skull slamming into his knees.
What Thompson does remember is hearing Reed Porter’s voice but not being able to see him when Porter found him on the ground.
From there, Thompson faded in and out of consciousness as the ambulance arrived, and he was transported via helicopter to University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha. Eventually he could see medical personnel talking to him during the flight but couldn’t hear them due to noise from the propellers.
As UNMC surgeons assessed Thompson’s injuries, it was an impressive list:
Fractured skull; broken shoulder blade; broken ribs; broken eye sockets; broken nose; broken jaw; broken left humerus (upper arm bone); shattered left femur (thigh bone) in 12 pieces; broken right leg, twice below the kneecap and once above the ankle; broken talus (lower bone in ankle joint) in right ankle; and a cracked pelvis which Thompson later dubbed “minor.”
Surgeons sedated Thompson and immediately screwed external fixators to his legs for stabilization. It’s not surprising to those who know Thompson that as he regained consciousness, he also resumed talking.
Surgeons then explained there would be two surgical teams: One for plastic surgery for his face; the other for the orthopedic or bone repairs.
First came the orthopedic session which required five hours. The plan was if that went well, or “toes up” as Thompson described, the facial reconstruction would follow. And follow it did.
Thompson was dismissed from UNMC to Good Samaritan Care Center, Red Oak, for rehabilitation where he would spend the next 12 weeks. He never doubted he’d be leaving the care center to continue recovery at home.
Within six months, Thompson was pushing a lawnmower with one hand while holding onto a cane with the other.
Today, he says his body is still “getting used to all the new pieces.”
When people comment that he’s lucky to be alive, Thompson agrees although he never doubted he’d survive. He says, “It never once occurred to me that I wouldn’t make it.”
Take-aways from this experience? Thompson says it’s forced him to have more patience as recovery progress has ebbed and flowed. He commented, “I’m a realist, I’m still curious. Each morning I get up, I feel good, I go do something. I walk, I pick up litter, I try to be helpful to people, I enjoy visiting with people. And I always thrive with a good game of cribbage or cards.”
Thompson hails from a family of seven siblings. After numerous on-the-job accidents in the oilfields, construction sites, and iron work projects, the siblings share this mantra: “We’re not too smart, but we’re tough to kill.”