Farmer soldiers on despite painful hip injury

Ann Gorman

Like farmers across central Illinois, Andy Woodrum of rural Athens won’t be deterred from harvesting this year’s crops.

“Nothing is going to slow him down,” said Woodrum’s wife, Amy.

Andy was hospitalized for 10 days and had surgery at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield for a dislocated right hip and hip socket fracture after the dirt bike he was driving Sept. 20 went end over end on a private track near Cantrall. He now has eight pins and a metal plate in the hip socket, along with an 18-inch incision and 72 staples.

An Athens volunteer firefighter since age 18, Andy — who’d raced competitively as a teen — hadn’t been on a dirt bike in a few years but was wearing protective gear when the crash occurred.

“It was a freak accident; it could’ve happened to anyone. If he would’ve landed on his head or neck, he’d definitely be paralyzed,” Amy, a part-time nurse at Memorial, said of her husband, who eventually will need hip-replacement surgery.

The couple has been married a little more than a year, and Amy has an 8-year-old daughter, Alli.

Unable to bear weight on his right side, Andy on Monday strapped the crutches he must use to the side of his combine, climbed inside the cab and drove into a cornfield off Rahman Street near Tallula.

“He loves harvest,” Amy said. “He always looks forward to this time of year.”

The Woodrum family has been involved in agriculture for generations, said Andy, who farms about 650 acres in Menard County and works with Wankel Farms Partnership in Menard and Sangamon counties. He also helps with his father’s excavating business.

“It’s in his blood,” Amy said of Andy’s dedication to farming. She pointed out that his grandmother, Delores Woodrum of rural Athens, who’s in her 70s, still plows acres of land, drives a tractor to the local elevator and “fixes a feast” for others working in the fields.

Andy quietly acknowledged Monday that recovering from his injuries has made farming more difficult and that he’s in pain “most of the time.” But he doesn’t complain.

“I’m going back to work,” he said, heading into a sea of cornstalks.

In the past, Andy typically stayed in the fields during harvest time from 5 a.m. to midnight. On Sunday, he worked from 8:30 a.m. until about 9 p.m.

“He’s shortened his days some, but not much,” Amy said, noting that hopping around on one foot and climbing up and down the combine’s stairs leaves Andy exhausted, and he’s not sleeping well at night because he’s uncomfortable.

In years past, Andy has helped area farmers in times of need.

“It’s what everybody does,” he said.

So it’s no surprise that many people recently have pitched in to help Andy, including his non-farming friends, who assisted in getting his farm machinery ready to bring in corn and soybeans.

“He really appreciates everything that everyone has done. But he has trouble letting someone else do his work,” Amy said. “He’s (usually) up moving around all the time. … He’s not a sit-still type of guy.”

“He has such a strong work ethic,” agreed Andy’s mother, Carol Woodrum.

Mark Wankel, who’s worked with Andy for four years, said “nothing stops the kid.”

“He’s loyal, hardworking and stubborn,” Wankel said. “He doesn’t need to be in that combine, but he’s determined he’s going to go, and that’s the way it is. He’s a great guy.”

Andy had no health insurance when the accident happened, and Amy estimates his medical bills could range between $125,000 and $225,000.

“I’m guessing,” she said. “I really have no idea. It could be way more than that.”

Friends, family and fellow firefighters have organized a benefit for Andy from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Boar’s Nest bar and grill on Illinois 29 near Athens. Food, live music, silent and live auctions, raffles and children’s activities are among the events planned.

Although Andy “has a passion for farming,” he also is driven about meeting his responsibilities, Amy said.

“Even though people are volunteering to help, he has to do this. He feels an obligation to himself, I think, to get this work done,” she said. “Whether it was the hip fracture or something else, he would still be out there doing it.”

Ann Gorman can be reached through the State Journal-Register metro desk at (217) 788-1519.