GRAPHIC: Avera Medical Minute: Limb-saving care

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 9:27 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Working on a farm comes with its fair share of risks, but finding care for injuries shouldn’t be one of them.

That’s why Avera has helped develop an extensive network of emergency services and outreach programs that bring specialists to rural communities across the Midwest, so when accidents happen, patients are able to quickly get a wide variety of surgical repair options, as well as help for healing tricky wounds.

“We have the resources now to do these things. In terms of other pathologies foot fractures, soft tissue injuries, foot and ankle reconstruction. These are all kinds of things that we offer here,” said Dr. Peter Bellezza, Avera podiatrist.

A Rock Valley farmer’s care team helped save his foot after an accident in the grain bin.

January 11 started as a normal day on the Pollema farm. At 77 years young, Dale Pollema was planning to move some corn from the grain bin — something he’s done countless times. But that day was about to become anything but ordinary.

“I was standing in there, and I kind of reached around the door, and I threw that switch, and that auger just flew right at me. Then I got out of that bin right away, and I shut the bin and everything off. And then I walked,” said Pollema.

“I had seen my dad walking across the yard, and he does limp or walk slower at times, but he was really walking funny, and all of a sudden, we saw a red pickup just fly across the yard. My dad got in the red pickup,” said Becky Van Maanen, Dale’s daughter.

“He took the highway and drove through Rock Valley, never stopped for a red light. I don’t know how fast he was going, but he was moving,” said Pollema.

The auger had torn into Dave’s foot and lower leg. The emergency team at Hegg Memorial Hospital in Rock Valley sprang into action, doing everything possible to save Dale’s foot while his family prayed and witnessed a miracle.

“She (the ER Nurse) goes, ‘This is amazing!’ She goes, ‘I don’t know how this happened, but I don’t think we hit one tendon!’” said Van Maanen.

The injury was still very serious, so Dale’s care was transferred to Dr. Peter Bellezza.

“I took one look at the injury film, and I was like, ‘All right. Definitely a pretty severe soft-tissue injury. But as long as the Achilles is intact, and his arterial flow is intact, we can definitely work with this,” said Dr. Bellezza.

Dr. Bellezza first did surgery to repair the soft tissue in Dale’s ankle. To give him and his wound a better chance at recovery, he also did a skin graft a week later.

“He had a good scan envelope right above the wound, so I was able just to harvest a small amount of skin to kind of get it over that granular bed. We put another wound vac on, which was on for a full week, and by the time we took it off, the skin had fully grown into the wound,” said Dr. Bellezza.

“Oh, he did a super job!” said Pollema

The images are a little rough, but every week Dale continued to show progress.

“Every Monday, he’d take a look at it, and it was healing nice and everything. And he says, ‘But do not walk on that leg!’ And I didn’t. I don’t listen too often, but I did listen to him!” said Pollema.

“He definitely had a traumatic injury. It was definitely limb-threatening, and to be able to go from something that was limb-threatening and could have resulted in a below-the-knee amputation to seeing him back to doing farming and right in time for the farming season, definitely makes you feel good for sure,” said Dr. Bellezza.

If that auger blade had hit Dale even a centimeter in another direction, this could be a very different story. But every step of the way, Dale had a team invested in his care and his healing.

“Everything that could have gone right went right, and his recovery was amazing. A lot of people were praying for us. It’s definitely a miracle, and we could definitely feel God’s grace through it all,” said Van Maanen.

“I ain’t walking with a cane much anymore. Hopefully, I can do a little bit of something yet. But other than that, I don’t know. I hope the summer goes all right,” said Pollema.

For more information on orthopedic and wound care services, visit