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Friday, May 27, 2016

Senior survives ordeal, holds onto his humor

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Iverson said he heard Iowa Guard planes doing low maneuvers over his farm place south of Storm Lake early that morning as he was setting out to do chores. "They sounded so close it was almost like they could tear everything to pieces," he said. As he walked west of his barn and paused to look up for the planes, an unexpected gust of wind - he's not sure if it came from the jets or not - knocked him off his feet.

"It was a very strange thing. It hit me so hard that it knocked one of my overshoes right off my foot, and next thing I knew, I was flat on the ground."

Iverson wasn't able to get up, and found that he couldn't move on his hands and knees. So he tried the next best thing - he rolled.

"It was about 150 feet to the machine shed, and all I could think was to get there to get some shelter, and rolling was the only way I was going to get there," he said.

He was finally able to work his way inside - just ahead of the light rain that could have meant hypothermia. "I was laying on the floor, but I knew it was too cold to lay still for a long time, so I kicked over some air compressors and was able to make enough room to be able to roll over one direction a couple of times, then back the other way. That was enough to keep me warm," he said.

It was the beginning of a nearly 12-hour wait for help.

In the process, his luck didn't get any better.

Ordeal / See Back

At one point he reached into his pocket for his cellular phone to call for help, then realized that he had left it in the house that morning, deciding to pack a stud finder instead for some outside work he had planned for the day.

A neighbor was also to stop and check on him that morning, but an unexpected change in plans prevented the stop.

Struggling against phlegm building up in his airways, Iverson tried to spit out the doorway, but the wind was so strong it was blown directly back into his own face. "Here I was with phlegm spread all over my own face. Oh, I was a sight. What a nightmare," he sighed.

And just when he thought it couldn't get worse, he heard a rustling in the area under the workbench, where he had rested his head on an old sack.

He thought it might be a wandering farm cat - a nice warm bundle of fur. Wrong.

"I couldn't believe it. I found myself staring directly eye to eye with a skunk. He looked at me, and I looked at him. After a while, he just decided to back off and leave me there and went about his business. I found out that day that if you don't mess with a skunk, a skunk won't mess with you, thank goodness."

When his pickup didn't show up at home where it belonged late that day, friends Steve Berry and Romaine Schriber got worried, and help finally came running - "at about 100 miles an hour," Iverson said. By then it was after 7 p.m. and grown dark and bone-chilling, and he had been down in the cold since 7:30 that morning without food or water.

"My friend was more shaken up than I was. I heard him come looking, and I called out to him, 'Romaine, quit your crying, I'm okay.'"

After an ambulance trip to the hospital with an assist from a sheriff's deputy, Iverson is back home. He was weak for several days, but describes himself as "springy" again after a full recovery. "I can get right up again now," he said.

Thankfully, Iverson had suffered no major broken bones in the fall. Parts of his body were badly bruised from the many stones he had rolled over to get to shelter, and one of the lenses from his broken eyeglasses had become embedded in his back, he said.

His doctor, David Crippin, asked Iverson how he knew that rolling his body was exactly the right thing to do to produce body heat and survive the conditions.

"I didn't know it was the best thing to do - it just happened to be the only thing I could do," he laughed.

For age 89, Iverson came through the experience quite well, Dr. Crippin said. "He was dehydrated, but they hooked him up with some IV fluids right away in the ER. The next day, he looked worse when all the bruising was showing up, but once he was up and around, he was doing quite well."

The medical center also provided a "Lifeline" unit for Iverson, a system that allows an aged or ill person to contact help by pressing a button. Such a device is a good idea for many older people who continue to lead active lives, but might need help in the event of a fall or other emergency.

Someone recently asked Iverson if he had prayed during his ordeal.

"I said no, I didn't pray. The good Lord had already given me 89 good years. I wasn't going to spoil that by asking for something more."

Despite his bad fortune, Iverson said he considers himself lucky as he looks back on it. "For February, it wasn't as as bad as it could have been. If that day happened to be 10 degrees colder, I don't think I would have made it. I suppose things like this are the way we learn our lessons."

As far as he's concerned, Everett Iverson is still on a "roll" of good luck after all.

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