SIDNEY — If you ask Kenton and Kay Anderson, of Sidney, if there’s power behind prayers, you’ll receive a resounding “Yes!” from both of them.
For the Andersons, the power of prayer began on a sunny day on Sept. 28. The day started normally for Kenton Anderson, who was harvesting a field of beans across from the couple’s home on Hardin Wapakoneta Road.
“I had just started combining,” said Kenton. “I had been at it a couple of hours.”
With the combine full of soybeans, he pulled up next to the trailer to begin the unloading process.
“I went over to unload them and I noticed a small fire in the back of the machine. I backed it away from the trailer. The fuel tank ruptured and blew straight away at me,” Kenton recalled. “It was like going through an inferno.”
An inferno that burned 47 percent of his body.
“I was burning and I could hear it singeing me. I threw my phone away and jumped off the machine,” he said. “I was on fire so I rolled … right into diesel fuel.
“I ripped the shirt off of me as it was on fire,” he continued. “I had everything out but the left arm band of my shirt didn’t come off of me.”
Kenton said the neighbors were outside when the fire started. They heard him screaming.
“I told them to call 911,” he said. “I moved the semi away from the combine so it wouldn’t burn. Then I got out of the semi and just laid there until the rescue squad got there.”
Conscious and in terrible pain, Kenton heard the squad members talk about taking him to Wilson Health where they would meet up with CareFlight.
“I told them to land it in the hay field,” said Kenton. “I was still conscious as they loaded me up to go to Miami Valley Hospital.”
While the emergency squad was working on Kenton, his wife, Kay, was just finishing up her shift as an administrativee assistant at the Piqua Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
“I had just gotten off work and was in line at Wendys in Piqua,” she said. “A neighbor called and asked if I was on my way home. She told me I better hurry because the combine was on fire.
“The first thing Kenton asked when I got there was ‘Where’s my Wendys?’” she said.
“I don’t remember that,” he admits.
As CareFlight was flying to the hospital, Kay was following in her vehicle. When she arrived at the hospital, a team of doctors and nurses were already working on Kenton.
“He was in a room with 20 doctors and nurses,” said Kay. “It was overwhelming for me. Kenton was laying on a gurney. They told me we could talk to him before they put him out.”
“We said our goodbyes and they put me under,” said Kenton.
He was placed in a paralyzed state, which lasted for three weeks. During the treatment Kenton was “mummified” with wrappings and dressings.
“They would take them off and redress me two times a day,” he said of the treatment. He had a team of six to eight people working on him each day to treat the third-degree burns he had received.
For the first part of his hospital stay, Kay and Kenton’s mom and stepdad, Camilla and Frank Ackerman, of Sidney, were at the hospital everyday. Kay spent day and night at the hospital at the beginning of his stay. Kay was at the hospital every day of Kenton’s 40-day hospitalization.
“He had so many visitors everyday,” said Kay. “We had great support from our family and friends. Just the family could see him while he was in ICU.”
After being in a paralyzed state for three weeks, the doctors began the process of waking him up.
“I was in excruciating pain,’ said Kenton. “I was on a ventilator. I’d get a show every morning and they’d scrubbed me down. It was very painful.”
Because of the damage to his skin and nerves, his body’s temperature gauge doesn’t work properly.
“I’d be freezing cold under the heat lamps,” he said. “I was miserable for the next week (first week out of the paralyzed state). Then I was able to tolerate it (pain) more.
“The last week (of his hospital stay), they sent me to rehab,” said Kenton. “It went better but I was still hot and cold. I had to learn to walk and talk again. I had voice therapy to help.
“All my muscles had show down and were dead,” he said. “My Achilles heal had shut down.”
“When he walked for the first time with a walker, they (medical staff) all cheered,” said Kay.
Kenton underwent three surgeries where the surgeons took skin from his legs and placed it on the burned portions of his back.”
When he was first admitted to the hospital, he had two nurses 24-hours a day. As his condition improved, he had one nurse. He was placed in a special bed that would rotate to help keep his circulation going.
“As I was getting burned, I thought I was going to die,” said Kenton. “I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t see. I didn’t know if I was running to the fire or away from it. My eyes were burning, my hair was singeing. My ears were all black and burned up.”
The couple are the parents of two sons, Tyler Anderson, 27, who is a pilot with the U.S. Air Force, and Travis Anderson, 24, who is employed by Cargill in Cincinnati. Tyler received emergency leave from the Air Force and was home for two weeks while his dad was in the hospital.
Travis has taken over running the farm while his dad is recovering. They have 4,000 hogs and cattle that they raise.
“He’s been my rock,” said Kenton. “He spends the night here and leaves at 4 a.m. to go to his job. Then he comes back here after work.” The 600-acre farm is a one-man operation.
The recovery process is continuing now that he’s home. Home health comes to the house each day for rehab and treatment. He was to to the Miami Valley Hospital once a week for rehab.
“I’m doing exercises and trying to cope with the pain,” he said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. I still have a lot of swelling and my arms and legs still aren’t working right.”
Kenton admitted he asked the doctors if they thought he’d make it home.
“They said ‘no’ and that they almost lost me a couple of times,” said Kenton.
“They said if he wasn’t as strong and a big of guy that he is, he might not have made it,” Kay said. “There would be days when he’d have a fever. Then his blood pressure would go down. Something was always shutting down.”
“Your skin is the first line of defense,” said Kenton. “My body would shut down to protect the skin.”
Doctors have told the couple that it will take approximately six months for Kenton to regain his motor skills. It’ll take one to two years for him to be completely back to normal.
Kenton received an escort from Lt. Joe Gebhart of the Piqua Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol when he returned home Wednesday. Family and friends lined the driveway to welcome him back to Sidney.
“I’d like to say thank you to all the neighbors and farmers who harvested all my crops for me,” said Kenton. “They did a wonderful job. They didn’t ask for anything in return.”
The pair credit the doctors and nurses in the burn unit at the hospital for Kenton’s recovery. The medical staff and the prayers they received from around the world.
“Sidney First (United Methodist Church), where we attend, was a great support,” said Kay.
The pair said they would receive word that that someone was praying for Kenton in England, France and Ireland. They received a quilt from someone in Colorado.
“I got cards from people all over the world,” said Kenton. “I had amazing support. I have seven siblings and they were all supportive. They’d come and see me even when I was not conscious.
“I spent nights at the hospital in the beginning,” said Kay. “My girlfriends cleaned the house for us.”
Kay is currently on leave from the Patrol until Kenton’s health improves more.
“The police escort home was pretty cool,” said Kenton. “The Fraternal Order of Police has been very supportive of us. We’ve received gas cards and food cards. Thank God for our insurance.”
The couple said they have been blessed by the people they know and those they don’t during this time of crisis.
“We’re very blessed,” said Kenton. “We’re thankful for all the support from our friends and family. It really makes us feel good. We know that all their prayers worked.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.