Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Life can change in an instant”: A Minnesota family in need January 10, 2013

IT IS THE MOMENT we all fear—the late night phone call, the unexpected knock on the door.

For Nina Hedin, a young mother from Glencoe whom I highlighted in a magazine feature about 10 Minnesota bloggers, fear became reality on Saturday afternoon. Her husband, Tom, was seriously injured in a snowmobile accident.

Photo of Nina Hedin published in Minnesota Moments, winter 2012 issue.

I got to know Nina about a year ago, when she was among 10 Minnesota bloggers highlighted in a feature I wrote for Minnesota Moments magazine. This photo of Nina published in that winter 2012 story.

Here then, in Nina’s words, is the beginning of her family’s new reality:

I’ve told this story so many times over the last two days that the words are flying out of my fingers and onto this computer faster than I am thinking them.

Saturday, January 5, Tom left after lunch to ride snowmobile a little bit; he was going to visit a friend just outside of town. Around 3 pm he had still not returned and he had not sent any messages or called. This was VERY unusual for Tom and I was worried. Normally he’ll be out for 30-45 minutes and always, ALWAYS sends me random text messages.

I called friends that Tom sometimes rides with to ask if he had been by.

I hopped online to see if he used our check card anywhere; maybe he stopped for something to eat or there would be another clue.

At 4:30 pm there was a loud knock at the door. My stomach dropped. I knew it would not be good. I knew it. The county sheriff told me that Tom was in an accident and was to be airlifted to HCMC.

Fear, panic, adrenaline…

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

Nina and Tom Hedin with Jack and June.

This, dear readers, breaks my heart. Even though I’ve never met Nina or her family, I remained connected to Nina after writing that initial magazine feature (which you can read by clicking here). I continued reading her The Adventures of Artsy Nina blog and we exchanged occasional emails. She is a vivacious, creative (she also runs two Etsy shops, Camp Honeybelle and Nina Baran Upcycled Vintage Jewelry)  and caring individual with a delightful sense of humor.

So when the call went out to Nina’s circle of blogging friends to share the Hedins’ story, I didn’t even have to consider. Helping someone in need, especially a friend, is the right thing to do. And the family needs assistance, both financially and in prayer.

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote:  "We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night."

Blogging about an evening out with her husband in early December, Nina wrote: “We held hands and ran the short block home through the first snow fall of the season, laughing and enjoying the end of a good night.”

Here again, in Nina’s words, are the injuries her beloved Tom suffered:

Injuries listed from top to bottom; brain hemorrhage and complications, fractured orbital (eye) socket, facial lacerations, fractured T6 vertebrae, broken and dislocated right wrist, broken left elbow and fractured upper arm, left knee cap broken with severed tendon and puncture wound, right knee ligament injury.

He faces a long, hard road to recovery. As of yet we are unsure of the extent of damage to the brain, and the recovery time/therapy needed for his limbs and back will take months.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

A recent photo of Tom with Jack and June.

You can only imagine the insurmountable medical bills this couple in their early 30s, with two children, Jack, 3, and seven-month-old June, will face. An online “Help for Tom Hedin” account has been set up at GiveForward to assist the family with mounting medical and day-to-day expenses. The goal is to raise $100,000 by March 9.

Please consider offering your financial support by clicking here. Together we can make a difference and ease some of this family’s financial worries. Perhaps your friends, church group, family, co-workers, card club, coffee group, etc., can join efforts to collect monies for the Hedins. Every dollar, whether ten or 500, helps.

Because Tom has been with his current employer for only six months, he does not qualify for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has been his family’s main source of financial support.

Please also pray for the Hedin family and their medical team. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

Tom with Jack and June at Halloween.

In closing, let’s listen to Nina one last time with this excerpt from her January 8 blog post, “Life Can Change in an Instant”:

It’s a cliche. You hear it all the time, think it some of the time, but you don’t really get it until something happens to you and yours.

Life as you know it can change in an instant.

Hug your kids, your husband, your mom, your dad, your neighbor, your friend. You never, ever know what that next moment might bring.

TO OFFER WORDS of encouragement and support and/or to read the latest updates on Tom’s condition, visit his CaringBridge website by clicking here.

NINA’S BLOGGER CIRCLE of friends is already posting her family’s story. Click here to read a post by Montana resident and former Minnesotan Bernie at One Mixed Bag.

Then click here to read a post by Beth Ann from Iowa at It’s Just Life. For every comment posted to her blog during January and February, Beth Ann is donating 50 cents to the Hedin family for medical expenses. This is part of Beth Ann’s ongoing “Comments for a Cause” campaign. So simply by commenting on any of Beth Ann’s posts during the next two months, you will be helping Tom, Nina, Jack and June.

© Text and photos copyright of Audrey Kletscher Helbling and Nina Hedin
Photos courtesy of Nina Hedin


Harvest time in Minnesota: God bless our farmers & keep them safe September 16, 2010

LIFE GETS ESPECIALLY BUSY this time of year in rural Minnesota as farmers gear up for harvest. They’re readying their equipment, preparing to move into the ripening corn and soybean fields. Some have already been out chopping corn.

As the days progress swiftly toward winter, farm work too moves at an often frantic pace with long days behind the wheel of a combine or a tractor or a truck. With those increased work hours come fatigue and the very real danger that one slip, one wrong move, could endanger a farmer’s life.

That’s why I’m glad to see projects like the Farm Fatigue Program, a collaboration of the Hutchinson and Glencoe Chamber of Commerce ag business committees. The two groups have teamed up to deliver donated items—like safety glasses, ear plugs, sun screen, apples, water and candy—to farmers laboring in the fields. Members also deliver a message of thanks and a reminder to stay safe, according to the Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In the past two years the Hutch and Glencoe committee members have distributed 300 bags to farmers while patrolling the back roads and highways of McLeod County for several days during peak harvest. When the orange-sweatshirt-clad delivery men and women spot a farmer working the fields, they stop.

The Hutchinson group offered the program for eight years before partnering with Glencoe.

Just to the south in Sibley County, a rural church is also doing its part to remind farmers to “be safe.” This Sunday, September 19, Trinity Lutheran Church, located nine miles southeast of Gaylord on County Road 8, is hosting a Tractor Roll-In and Harvest Blessing Service at 10:30 a.m. “Drive your tractor or combine to church, or just come!” event promotional material encourages. “Come experience the Spirit of the Lord of the Harvest.”

Bishop Jon Anderson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southwestern Minnesota Synod and Trinity’s pastor, the Rev. William Nelsen, will bless attending farm families.

But the congregation is thinking beyond local farmers and their safety. Proceeds from an after-dinner service will benefit farmers in South Africa, where members of Trinity and its sister congregation, St. Paul’s, recently traveled.

I’m impressed with the strides that the Gaylord, Hutchinson and Glencoe groups are taking to thank farmers and promote safety. For me, farm safety is personal. While growing up on a southwestern Minnesota dairy and crop farm in the 1960s and 1970s, I was always aware of the dangers inherent to farming. My bachelor uncle Mike, who was like a second father to me, lost the tips of several fingers in a wagon hoist accident. Another distant relative lost an arm.

And then there’s my father-in-law, who on October 21, 1967, attempted to unplug a corn chopper. His hand was pulled into the spring-loaded rollers, which trapped his arm. Blades sliced off his fingers. I know the details of that accident because my husband, then 11 years old, ran for help, thus saving his father’s life. (Click here to read an account of that accident.)

An Allis Chalmers corn chopper, like this one recently exhibited at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show, claimed my father-in-law's left hand and much of his arm in a 1967 accident. That's my husband, Randy, who saved his dad's life by running for help. Randy remembers the accident just like it happened yesterday.

Randy showed me the spring-loaded corn chopper roller, where his dad's hand was pulled in and trapped.

My father-in-law lost his left hand and much of his arm in that farm accident. For years he sported a hook arm, but today wears a prosthetic hand and arm. He’s adjusted well. He had no choice.

Thankfully, farm equipment today is much safer than the farm equipment from decades ago.

Just look at the dangers farmers faced as shown in this threshing demonstration at the recent Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show. Thankfully items like exposed belts are mostly an issue of the past.

Yet, fatigue, haste or a lack of caution can still cause a tragedy in the field, on the farm or even along a country road or highway.

So when I hear about projects like the Farm Fatigue Program or the Tractor Roll-In and Harvest Blessing Service, I’m especially thankful.

Farmers, please be safe this harvest season.


IF YOU KNOW of any other community farm safety programs here in Minnesota, please share the information in a comment. We all need to work together to keep farmers safe during harvest, and year-round.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling