OKLAHOMA – It was the second to the last day of Tyler Zander’s summer job at Zaloudek Grain in Kremlin.
He remembers hearing his coworker scream.
“It honestly kind of seems like a movie I watched a long time ago,” Zander said. “One of the guys I was working with stepped on a board that was covering the auger, took his leg, just essentially grinding his leg up.”
The auger is a big metal corkscrew that spins and moves the wheat.
Zander instinctively reached for his coworker and got caught, as well.
“When the auger pulled me in, it just like split me in half like a wishbone,” Zander said. “We were stuck for the next hour and 20 minutes until rescue workers could free us.”
Nothing of Zander’s right leg remained from the knee down.
Doctors ended up having to amputate all the way up, including his femur.
They told his family he might not live and probably wouldn’t walk.
But, miracle after miracle occurred, and Zander never lost determination.
And, today, he walks in OU Medical Center, wearing a white coat.
“It was actually kind of weird like walking into the hospital today with a white coat on and everybody’s kind of looking at me like I know what I’m doing. And, I was like, last time I was here, I was a patient. I have no clue what I’m doing,” Zander said.
Doctor William Ertl is the trauma surgeon that helped save Zander’s life.
He got to put that white coat on Zander at the ceremony a couple weeks ago.
“Took a horrific situation, saved the young man’s life, got him back onto his feet so he’s not wheelchair bound. And, now, he’s working on his medical dream,” Ertl said.
The prosthetic Zander wears bears a picture of an auger with a board through it, forming a cross and the bible verse he had in his hospital room, Joshua 1:9; “Be strong and courageous.”
As horrible as it was, Zander wouldn’t change his experience.
“It’s given me a totally new perspective on life, a deeper and more powerful motivation for life and impacting the lives of others,” Zander said.
And, he said that perspective of being the patient will serve him well as he becomes a doctor and helps save others lives.
Zander wants to specialize in cardiothoracic surgery.