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Nick Prochnow of West Fargo at home with his family, wife Lindsay and children Isla, 2, Maddox, 10, and Bailey, 15. Prochnow was recently injured in a work-related accident, cracking a vertebrae, breaking his arm in several places and losing two of his fingers. David Samson

New city, new challenge for veteran injured in auger

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West Fargo resident and Iraq War veteran Nick Prochnow is no stranger to difficult challenges, but his greatest challenge began two months ago, and is sure to affect him for the rest of his life.

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The Hankinson, N.D., native moved to West Fargo in 2009 — after spending 3½ years in the United States Army and has been working for Northern Technologies Inc. for roughly a year. While drilling for soil samples on Feb. 10, his glove became caught in a rotating mechanism on an auger.

“That’s the last thing I remember,” Prochnow said.

After the device damaged his right arm, it then caught hold of his sweatshirt, which began to choke him.

When a co-worker found him, the auger was still spinning and Prochnow was motionless and blue-faced. His co-workers feared the worst.

“They were about to give me mouth-to-mouth, but I guess my eyes shot open and I freaked out a little bit,” Prochnow said. “After that was a long wait – one that seemed like an eternity – for the ambulance.”

It was at this time that Prochnow’s wife of 12 years, Lindsay, was informed of his accident, but given no details.

“I just got in my car and took off,” Lindsay said. “I actually beat the ambulance to the hospital.”

Prochnow and his wife were then driven to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis by ambulance – although he should have been airlifted, according to his doctor.

It was there that he discovered the full extent of his injuries. He had lost his middle and ring fingers, suffered a cracked vertebrae, had open fractures to the bones in his forearm and “completely busted up” his shoulder.

He also lost a lot of skin on his hand and forearm, and the choking action gave him dark red “eyes of the devil” that left him blinded for the first few days and did not return to their normal color for roughly two weeks.

During the month after the accident, Prochnow underwent nine different surgeries. One of them was to reconstruct his hand — moving his little finger closer to his index finger to potentially improve his grip — and a few of them were skin grafts on his hand and arm. The rest of the procedures were to “clean out” the affected areas.

He began physical therapy last week, and while he is not a fan of slow results, his wife has been impressed by his positive outlook during his recovery.

“He is not a patient person,” Lindsay said. “That is no secret, so I thought this would hit him harder, but he has had such a positive outlook. He just seems so determined to make the best of everything. He has really surprised me so far.”

Likewise, Prochnow has been amazed at his wife’s willingness and ability to provide for his needs, as well as the needs of their three children, Bailey, Maddox and Isla, while she is seven months pregnant — due to give birth to a boy on June 11.

“She has been an angel through all of this,” Prochnow said. “If it weren’t for her, I would probably still be lying in Hennepin. I can’t describe the words for what she has done for me; it has just been the greatest.”

A benefit for Prochnow is set for May 3 at 5 p.m. at the VFW in Mantador, N.D., roughly 11 miles from his hometown. While he and his wife admitted they felt both guilty and happy, they are both appreciative of the community’s willingness to help.

“It’s really overwhelming, but in a good way,” Lindsay said. “When they first told us they wanted to do this, I just thought ‘wow.’ We didn’t know what was to come at that time, but to know that so many people are in our corner is just great, and we are really grateful for everyone. Nick is a lucky guy.”

Cash or check donations made payable to “Nick Prochnow Benefit” can be dropped off at Gate City Bank in West Fargo.

Online donations for Prochnow can be made at www.dakmed.org/lendahand by clicking on “Donate” and then “Nick Prochnow fund.” Lend A Hand will provide $5,000 in matching funds.

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