What started out as an "ordinary workday" quickly turned into a life-threatening situation for Tony Marbach of Manchester.
The 23-year-old Marbach is a heavy equipment operator. On September 19,
he and two coworkers were working on a drainage tile project just south
of Ryan. The trench they were digging for the project was about six
feet wide and about seven feet deep. Around 8:45 a.m. Marbach jumped
into the trench to make sure everything was positioned correctly.
"The next thing I remember was seeing some cracks in the trench wall
and it started to move," recalls Marbach. "I turned around and started
sprinting out. Then all of a sudden I felt the dirt wall come crashing
down and everything went dark. I was completely buried in dirt."
Marbach felt several of his bones crack from the weight of the dirt. He
willed himself to stay calm but the pressure from the dirt packed
around his body made it difficult to breathe.
"I had a lot of thoughts running through my mind," Marbach said. "I
wondered if this was going be the last time I was going to see daylight.
I thought to myself - was this the end? Was this my time?"
Meanwhile his coworkers were frantically digging to save their trapped colleague. Marbach heard them calling his name.
"There was a small pocket in front of my chest where I could see some
light," recalls Marbach. "I took my left hand and pushed away about a
football-sized chunk of dirt and they saw my hand and knew I was alive.
That's when emergency crews arrived."
Emergency responders quickly and carefully dug Marbach out. He was
finally freed around 11 a.m. St. Luke's Lifeguard Air Ambulance had been
called to rush Marbach to the hospital. "I was amazed at how calm Tony
remained as emergency crews worked to dig him out," said Deb Julian, St.
Luke's Lifeguard Air Ambulance flight nurse. "As soon as the
firefighters freed him, we quickly loaded him into Lifeguard and
delivered him to St. Luke's."
"The injuries to Tony's chest area were evident at the scene, and while
we knew it would be hard on his lungs to lay him flat, it was critical
that his back and neck be immobilized in case he had neck or spine
fractures," said Vicki Petersen, St. Luke's Lifeguard Air Ambulance
flight nurse. "Helicopter transport for patients like Tony is vitally
important. He was very sick and minutes can mean the difference between
life and death."
"Vicki and Deb were great," said Marbach. "They kept me calm. The
entire ride in Lifeguard seemed to last only five minutes. Lifeguard is
very important to my family. I'm not the first to take a ride in the
helicopter. My brother, Matt, lost his arm in a farming accident several
years ago and Lifeguard was called to transport him too. It could have
been a different story for me that day if I would have had to take an
ambulance from Ryan to St. Luke's. My family is very grateful to have
in our community."
"Anyone who has a trauma like Tony's - it's important you get to a
hospital that triages him quickly with multiple specialists to address
the problems right away and get him stabilized," said James Boddicker,
MD, Internists PC "This immediate care will get him on the right road to
recovery and minimize secondary problems that might arise from the
Doctors determined Marbach had six broken ribs, a separated right
shoulder, several fractured bones around his left eye, broken collar
bones and a collapsed lung.
"Tony is pretty lucky he had someone working with him who knew how to
get him out quickly," said Dr. Boddicker. "In a trench collapse they
just get buried and can basically suffocate because the dirt just falls
in quickly. It's also common to see crush injuries like Tony sustained
because of the intense pressure from the dirt collapsing around him."
Marbach spent a total of 10 days at St. Luke's Hospital. Four of those days were spent in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
"The care was great at St. Luke's. They did a good job getting me
better and back on the right track," said Marbach. "I had excellent
Marbach is working with a physical therapist and continuing to recover from his injuries.
"He's doing fine," said Dr. Boddicker. "He still sees Dr. David Hart at
Physicians' Clinic of Iowa, P.C. Orthopedics for his shoulder and his
ribs are healing nicely. These types of injuries take time to heal but
he should be able to return to work."
"I want to return to work," said Marbach. "I just need some more time
before I'm completely healed. Overall I'm doing great and I'm thankful
to be alive."
Learn more about St. Luke's Lifeguard Air Ambulance