By Starrla Cray
COKATO, MN Louie Huber lost his hand in a farming accident in Wright County a few months ago, but he hasn’t lost his determination and grateful spirit.
“I refuse to believe that it’s over for me,” he said. “It’s a lot of attitude whether or not you believe you can do the same things or not.”
Huber is back to hauling milk for First District Association in Litchfield, and is getting used to his new prosthetic hand.
“Every day you learn something new with it; you learn a trick,” he commented.
Before the prosthetic, Huber felt like he was “going nuts” not being able to go to work.
“I’m not a stay-in-the-house kind of guy,” he said, explaining that he likes to stay busy, whether it’s driving truck, fixing equipment, or helping his dad farm.
The day of his accident, Oct. 1, Huber had been helping with the corn harvest in Stockholm Township. The corn picker wasn’t working right, so he attempted to push a few corn cobs out of the way. However, Huber’s hand got caught, and he was stuck for the next 90 minutes as emergency workers took the machine apart to free him.
Huber was then airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center, where doctors had to amputate his right hand at the wrist.
“I wasn’t sure how he was going to adapt to that,” said Mitch Simmons, who has been one of Huber’s best friends and neighbors for decades. “I was worried about it, but he seemed to be very positive.”
During the nearly three months he was out of work, Huber made good use of his time.
“I went visiting friends, former coworkers, and current coworkers,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with my dad.”
Back at it
A few weeks after the amputation, Huber helped his dad finish the corn harvest by welding the corn picker back together. Welding with one hand wasn’t easy, but Huber did what he had to do.
“Otherwise we couldn’t get our corn in,” Huber said, explaining that his dad isn’t able to weld due to a pacemaker/defribrillator.
Doing things left-handed is slowly getting easier for Huber with practice. Now, he can “write legibly enough for a first-grader.”
The new prosthetic right hand has been a big help, too and it’s allowed him to get back to driving truck.
“I was lucky enough to have an employer who set me up with equipment to help my job be easier,” Huber said. “It was never a matter of ‘if’ I’d be coming back. It was ‘you just call me when you’re ready to go.’”
The first day back on the job, Huber rode with his boss to make sure everything went smoothly. Since then, he’s been on his own.
“The first week was kind of awkward,” Huber said, but added that it’s getting easier with time. “That’s the biggest thing retraining your brain.”
A bionic hand
Huber’s prosthetic has two hooks that open and close, which he describes as a “universal tool that works for 80 to 90 percent of daily activities.” Special sensors trigger the hooks to open and close, based on Huber’s movements.
“When you move your muscles in your body, they actually give off electrical signals,” he explained.
He noted that prosthetic limbs have advanced dramatically the past 20 years, and there are catalogs of different options available for all kinds of activities, including sports and cooking.
At night, Huber takes off his prosthetic so it can recharge and be ready for work the next day.
“Even with the prosthetic, it’s still frustrating,” he said. “I’m coming back real slow.”
Huber said the people who’ve reached out to him have made the transition much easier.
“I am forever humbled and appreciative,” he said, noting that he’s received phone calls, cards, and gifts from many people, even some he hasn’t had a chance to talk to in years. “I could spend the rest of my life saying ‘thank you’ and it wouldn’t be enough.”
He described the experience as “eye opening,” and commented that “it’s nice to know you mean something to people.”
On the flyer for Huber’s benefit, friends noted, “Even through such a terrible tragedy of losing his hand, Louie has not lost his sense of humor or his wit! Let’s help him keep it this way. Anyone who knows him knows how helpful of a person he is, and that he will help anyone in their time of need. Now is our time to help him out!”
The benefit will take place Saturday, Feb. 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Forest City Threshers Building (south of Forest City off Highway 284). It will include a spaghetti dinner and silent auction. For more information, call Mitch Simmons at (320) 699-1100.