Zach and Jodi met while attending Hutchinson College. He was a farmer from Assaria, and she was an athlete on a track scholarship. During the summer, Jodi would visit Zach on his farm during harvest, climb up into the combine, and enjoy the country life on Zach’s farm. Not long after, Zach decided he wanted Jodi to be part of that life. He proposed, they married, and a beautiful child came a year later to complete a beautiful life.
Then came another harvest. A tractor caught on fire and Zach ran over to the combine to assess the situation. No one knew that the fire had started because the combine hit an overhead powerline. As Zach’s hand touched the machine, his world froze. Jodi's world froze. A small, rural community in Kansas froze.
“I still remember the phone call” said Jodi. “My husband was in a bad accident, they didn’t know if he was alive. Zach’s mother drove me to the hospital and I was told Zach had been badly shocked by 7,200 volts of electricity.” When Jodi arrived at the hospital with her daughter, she found her husband badly burned and in an induced coma. Then Zach coded.
The nurses ran in to alert Jodi. As she hurried down the hallway towards her husband, she found her Zach being given CPR. Jodi immediately turned to her faith. She sent messages to friends, families, and the local community asking for prayers as the medical team continued performing CPR to revive her husband. Minutes went by filled with the prayers of thousands. With every compression there seemed to be another prayer, another petition for grace and healing. After nine minutes, Zach was back. He was proving to be a fighter.
Days later Zach would wake up and immediately ask for his wife. But with every step forward it seemed like there were two steps back. The doctors told Zach and Jodi they would have to amputate his legs. But Zach would keep fighting. With the kindness rural communities are known for, his town sold t-shirts, organized poker runs, and raised tens of thousands of dollars to help cover the escalating hospital bills. Most importantly, they continued praying. Zach was in for a fight,
Over the next year, Zach would face round after round of surgeries and treatments in hyperbaric chambers to speed the healing of his many skin graft sites. He would work for countless hours on physical and occupational therapy with Jodi always by his side. It would have been easy for this farming family to give up, but both were fighters. They kept fighting together, and individually, and continued to walk in faith. The following summer, Zach was finally fitted for his prosthetics
Nearly a year after the accident, Zach is standing tall. His road to recovery isn’t complete and has miles to go. His foundation is set. He has the kindness of his rural community behind him, the love of his supportive wife beside him, and the grace of his faith above him. Sometimes, to be truly outstanding in your field, it takes the support of your loved ones.
This story, and many others like it, are available in the Kansas Farmer coffee table book. All profits from this project go to fund scholarships for agricultural communication students at Kansas State University. To support students in need and purchase a book, click HERE . All pre-orders before December 7th will be autographed.
Scott Stebner is an agricultural photographer who creates powerful and dramatic images of every day agriculturalists.