From devastating accident to miraculous recovery - Dillin showed remarkable strength and an incredible will to live.
"It was a day I’ll never forget," Janell Meier recalls the accident that nearly took her son’s life. "In the blink of an eye, your entire world can change. I really thought we were going to lose Dillin that day. I now believe in miracles."
Nothing short of a miracle is the best way to describe Dillin Meier and his new lease on life. But for the 19-year-old Bloomington native, he’ll tell you he’s always appreciated his life, his family, and farming - but now maybe just a little more. He’s lived and worked on his family farm his entire life and continued to help his family as he worked to complete his degree at Southwest Tech in Farm Business and Production Management.
November 27, 2018 was a regular Tuesday for Dillin, back to normal after a little break from school to celebrate Thanksgiving the week before. On this day he was helping cut wood with his dad, Tony, and his cousin, Joe as he had countless times before. Dillin was in the 4250 John Deere tractor getting ready to move a large tree. With Dillin’s dad in the skidster and Joe hooking up the log chain, Dillin started to tug at the tree to get it move when suddenly the log chain snapped into three pieces. The end of the chain launched up and over the cab of the tractor, causing the hook end of the chain to crash through the back window of the tractor cab - hitting the left side of Dillin’s head. The force of the impact immediately caused Dillin to collapse, unconscious while the tractor was still moving. Joe ran to the tractor and was able to get inside, support Dillin’s lifeless body and call 9-1-1.
West Grant Rescue Squad and Glen Haven First Responders were on the scene in record time and attempted to get him out of the tractor. By then, Dillin had come to and was flailing his arms and screaming in pain. Andrew Nicholas, EMT, recalls Dillin’s injuries and the ride from the scene to Lancaster. “He’s a pretty big guy and it took four of us to try and stabilize him. I really didn’t know how he was going to pull through,” explained Nicholas. “My main goal was to keep him down, at the same time, try and stop the bleeding. All indications were that this wasn’t going to be a good outcome.”
Meanwhile, Grant Regional’s ER trauma team was activated and ready for Dillin when he arrived. When the rescue squad reached Lancaster, med flight was landing on the hospital’s helipad. He was transported into the ER and immediately sedated and intubated to assist his breathing. Just moments before Dillin’s arrival, a Lancaster rescue squad had arrived with another head trauma injury from a different accident, mobilizing over a dozen hospital staff, EMTs and Lancaster Police to respond to both urgent needs. In a matter of 90 minutes from accident scene to Lancaster and onto Madison, Dillin was swiftly delivered to the rooftop helipad of UW and into the care of the Level 1 trauma facility. The next 24 hours following the accident were touch and go, but Dillin made remarkable improvements. Within 36 hours, he was taken off the ventilator and was showing great signs of recovery.
Bloomington EMT Andrew Nicholas admits this ranks right up there with some of the worst traumas he’s been involved in. But Dillin showed that day he was not only strong but also a fighter. He proved that he had the will to live and his incredible recovery is proof of that. Just 5 days after the accident, Dillin was discharged to go home.
Only 4 short weeks later, Dillion says he’s not quite 100% but close. His recovery included physical and speech therapy two times a week. He also admits he’s a little more cautious than he used to be but looking forward to getting back to doing the things he loves - being on the farm and helping where he can.
“I can’t say thank you enough to the EMTs, first responders, and the life-saving care at Grant Regional. From what people tell me, I don’t think I would be here today if it weren’t for them,” explains Dillin. “On December 20, I got to meet these special people who I don’t remember at all from that day and say thank you in person. I looked in their eyes and saw firsthand their dedication and compassion. It gave me chills and I appreciate each and every one of them for all they did to save my life that day. I will be grateful for the rest of my life.”