Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

'It was like I had won all the lottos ever when the PTO finally stopped'

Tommy Moynihan lost an arm in a farm accident, but he considers himself a lucky man

Tommy Moynihan has resumed full-time farming on his holding in Ballymacelligott in Co Kerry where he also rides out with the local hunt.
Tommy Moynihan has resumed full-time farming on his holding in Ballymacelligott in Co Kerry where he also rides out with the local hunt.
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Tommy Moynihan was just having another ordinary busy day on his 80-cow farm at Ballymacelligott near Tralee when disaster struck in 2006.

"I was filling the slurry tanker and the inlet had become blocked so I came around to the front of the tank to shut it off," explains Tommy.

In a split second, the half-covered PTO snagged a piece of the arm of Tommy's jacket.

"It just whipped the arm clean off me, along with every bit of my three layers of clothing except for my trousers and wellies," recalls Tommy.

However, the force of the wrench had flung Tommy across the shaft and thrown him down alongside the drawbar.

In the process, the hydraulic pipe had become dislodged from the back of the tractor, and wrapped around the still-spinning PTO, with just the metal end whacking off the drawbar centimetres from Tommy's dazed head.

He was rooted to the spot, unable to budge, and sure that it would only be a matter of moments before the PTO caught the back of his head and finished him off completely.

However, a workman who was in painting at the time realised something had happened, and discovered Tommy in time. He switched off the tractor, and the immediate danger for the Kerry man had passed.

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"It was like I'd just won all the lottos ever," he says about the moment the PTO finally grind to a stop. The spewing of blood from his butchered shoulder had already started to clot "like a big pork steak hanging down from my shoulder", as Tommy graphically put it.

Tommy had survived his first battle, but the war on his injury had just begun, with a two-month stay in hospital ensuing as consultants tried all in their power to get a piece of Tommy's mangled arm back onto his shoulder.

Skin grafts

"They knew if they could just get three to four inches of a stump there that I could manage a prosthesis, but my body kept rejecting it, and I ended up with just a series of skin grafts from my legs onto the wound on the shoulder," he says.

Tommy couldn't wait to get home, but both his family and doctors were worried about how he would adapt to a new lifestyle.

"The doctors said that I'd need a lot of counselling, but I think it was hardest on my family because they didn't know what the future held for me when I returned home.

"But there was no bother on me to be honest. I didn't qualify for the full disability allowance because you need to lose a leg or both arms to get that," he ruefully recalls.

Instead, Tommy decided to visit another dairy farmer near Clonmel that had lost his arm in an accident, and still managed to continue milking.

"I made it my business to call into him, and after seeing the little steel extension that he had connected to his waist and thigh in the parlour, I decided that I could have a go at milking them once a day.

"I know nothing else, so what was I going to do?" says Tommy.

Ever since the tenacious dairy farmer has resumed all manner of farm jobs, and he even goes horse riding with the local hunt every year.

"One of my strongest memories of that day was the look on my father's face when he came over to me at the machine.

"I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack because he was so pale and shocked looking. He only came right again when the ambulance service arrived on the scene.

"I still consider myself a very lucky man, and I've a different approach to farming now. Before I was always rushing and there was never enough hours in the day.

"Now I just do what I can, and if a job has to be left until tomorrow, what of it!" says a smiling Tommy.

Indo Farming