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Recovering farmer: “It’s a miracle I’m alive

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Eight inches.

That’s all that kept Gregory G. Porter from losing his life in a farm accident at the family’s main operations on Route 155 in the town of Rodman on July 30.

Mr. Porter, 52, co-owner of Porterdale Farms, narrowly survived the farm accident when he was run over by a cattle trailer. He was hit when the loaded truck was backing up that morning and the trailer ran over him.

He was dragged along the entire length of the 26-foot-long trailer.

There was a mere 8 inches of clearance between the ground and the trailer’s bottom when it went over him, he and his wife, Lisa P., said. Its heavy load of cattle caused the trailer to be lower to the ground than normal.

Able to keep to his wits about him, Mr. Porter frantically grabbed on to a jack under the trailer to prevent him from going underneath the truck. Despite that, the pickup stopped just a couple of feet away.

Somehow, he survived.

“It’s a miracle I’m alive,” said Mr. Porter, who is wheelchair-bound but has hopes of walking again.

He broke all 16 ribs, suffered collapsed pelvic bones on both sides, a broken hip and multiple other injuries. For the first 10 minutes after it happened, he did not feel any pain, he recalled. When he heard a helicopter was going to take him to Syracuse, he quickly realized the extent of his injuries. By then, the pain became unbearable.

Yet the father of three did not suffer any injuries to his internal organs; it was all skeletal.

“You know, I didn’t get a scratch on my head,” he said a matter-of-factly.

During the trip to Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, he overheard medics say he had internal bleeding and suffered from a flailing chest, a life-threatening injury. Some of his ribs became detached to the chest wall and moved independently inside his body. It was difficult for him to breathe, he remembered. He ended up needing five units of blood.

His wife later learned half of the people who suffer those injuries die, she said.

But Mr. Porter was conscious the entire time, from the time of the accident and throughout the LifeNet helicopter trip.

He spent the next six weeks in the hospital, where he went through three surgeries and daily physical and occupational therapy. Doctors told him it would take several months before he could even attempt to walk. He wears a hospital wrist band with the words, “Fall Risk” in red lettering.

“That’s what could happen to me when I stand,” he said.

The accident happened during the height of the growing season. It left the family farm without an important manager to help make decisions at a crucial harvest time.

But the farming community has always come together for one of their own. And it did again for Mr. Porter, a popular and well-known farmer who has been involved in agricultural issues and the area’s 4H program. His daughter, Casey, 17, a senior at South Jefferson High School, is the reigning Jefferson County dairy princess.

Immediately, area farmers made it known they were ready to help the Porters with whatever was needed, said Dr. John Ferry, the family veterinarian who’s been their friend for more than 30 years.

“There was a lot of emotional support, an outpouring of support,” he said. “It’s a reflection of the type of people they are.”

People sent hundreds of get-well cards, provided meals and just made sure they were there for the family, Dr. Ferry said. Mr. Porter received get-well wishes from people across the country; in some cases, from people’s he’s only seen a handful of times through the farming industry. A farmer in the Cortland area sent him a letter telling him how he, too, was severely injured in a similar accident when a cattle truck struck him. He’s never met the man.

A woman who was a caregiver for their oldest son, David P., now 24, wrote him. They had not seen her since the son was a toddler. All of their employees also stepped up in hie absence, he said.

“It’s humbling to know how many people there are thinking and praying,” he said. “You don’t realize how many people’s lives you’ve impacted until something like this happens.”

He came from the hospital on Sept. 9.

During his stay in the hospital, more than 130 different people came to visit him. And people continue to stop by the Porter home to see how the family is doing. While he sat in his backyard on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon, a few friends stopped by to wish him well.

“Everybody’s thinking about you,” Watertown resident Patrick J. Scordo told him that day.

The Porters belong to Honeyville Baptist Church, a small church on Route 177, near Adams Center, with about 50 close-knit members, that describes itself as a rural, community-minded place to worship. Since the day of the accident, the church has received about 3,000 posts on its Facebook page to get status reports on its friend, said the Rev. Albert J. Dowker, the church’s pastor.

It’s nothing short of “amazing” that Mr. Porter is still alive, the Rev. Mr. Dowker said. He credits faith in God with getting them through the ordeal.

“It’s really about their trust in God,” he said, adding he remembered that his friend asked him to pray for him when he first got to the hospital that day.

Just six days after getting out of the hospital, Mr. Porter and his family joined the congregation on Sept. 15 in what the Rev. Mr. Dowker described was an emotional service for the 65 people who attended. It was a testament to Mr. Porter’s strength that hewas able to be there, the pastor said. He was greeted by a standing ovation when he came up the church’s ramp in the sanctuary.

“It was really cool,” the pastor said.

On the day of the accident, Mrs. Porter was at the grocery store when she got a phone call from a family member that her husband was hurt. She raced to Adams to intercept the medical helicopter before it took him to Syracuse. She spoke briefly to him. An EMT kept assuring her that “he’s going to be fine,” but she didn’t know much, she recalled.

“I’d still be in the hospital if it weren’t for my wife,” he said.

A relative drove her to the hospital. Mr. Porter was on his way to surgery by the time she arrived. She stayed at Upstate practically almost every night he was there.

On his way to Syracuse, he kept asking for pain medicine, but was told that he had to wait. Later, Mr. Porter found out he was among the first people in America to be on a medicopter and get a drug to stop internal bleeding. That drug had just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

He is still undergoing physical and occupational therapy, and the couple realizes it will be a long road to recovery. His doctors have told him it may be months before he can try to walk, but Mr. Porter has his own timetable.

“We’ll get there,” he said. “One day at a time.”

After lots of hard work, doctors gave him the go-ahead last week to use a walker. On Sunday, he was able to take a few steps across the front of the church while his friends watched.

“We’re so happy,” Lisa Porter said. “We’re blessed.”

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