Man recounts survival after being crushed by 10 frozen hay bales

East Idaho Survivors

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ST. ANTHONY — Jan. 13, 2011, was a winter’s night that ranchers Bruce and Gracie Hill won’t forget.

“We had a charge to do, we had livestock to take care of,” Gracie says.

The Hills were loading bales of hay into their pick up to feed their animals. It was something the couple had done hundreds of times.

“Gracie pulled the bale, and I looked up and I (saw) the stack start to tip over. I thought it was going to land on the pickup with her, so I hollered at her jump off. Instead, it came the other way and landed on top of me,” Bruce said.

Bruce and Gracie with their granddaughter Maddy in 2010 | Courtesy photo

Ten frozen hay bales weighing 130 pounds each came crashing on top of Bruce.

They caused a neck injury and major spinal cord damage.

“He’s (lying on) the ground kind of in a “V” shape, and I said, ‘Bruce are you OK?’, and he’s always been a man of few words. He said, ‘No,’” Gracie says.

Bruce couldn’t feel his arms, hands or legs, but he could move his hand enough to get snow off his face.

“Through the whole deal, I just was at peace with everything. I really never got excited or worried about it, I just knew that … I just didn’t really worried about it at all,” Bruce says.

First time sitting up in a wheelchair at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in January 2011 | Courtesy photo

Thankfully Bruce’s spinal chord wasn’t severed, but it was badly bruised. Although his legs and arms feel numb he hasn’t totally lost movement or sensation in his limbs. He says he’s a walking quadriplegic.

“I have movement everywhere, and I can feel everything,” Bruce says.

Bruce mainly gets around with a power wheelchair, but he’s worked hard enough to be able to walk 110 feet with a walker.

“I still think there’s hope for more to come back yet. I’m not giving up yet,” Bruce says.

In April 2012 Bruce is out on the road with his power chair | Courtesy photo

The couple says since the accident life hasn’t only sped up. Despite his injury, he’s been able to accomplish much, they say. They’re still active in their ranching lifestyle.

“You can’t quit — you got to keep doing stuff,” Gracie says.

Gracie says now they don’t take chances like they did on that day in January almost seven years ago.

“If probably we could say one thing to other farmers and ranchers or anybody in the workforce: ‘safety, safety, safety.’ Don’t take chances. All it could take is one little slip, and it could change your life forever,” Gracie says

“Life can definitely change fast. It takes a second, and your life is totally changed,” Bruce says.

Bruce says he’s learned many things since the accident, and his family has been the greatest support.

“I think patience is one thing I’ve really learned. I’ve learned to appreciate my family more. People around me, friends, neighbors,” Bruce says.