A North Dakota farmer had a major heart attack trying to rescue his land from a fire that started in the combine he was using to harvest the crops on his farm.
In September 2020, Lane Unhjem was on his combine, harvesting durum wheat and canola on his farm in, North Dakota, when the machine caught on fire.
Trying to put out the fire and keep it from killing his crops, Unhjem, a grandfather, had a “major heart attack” and was rushed to hospital, where family reports he was also treated for a damaged kidney. Placed on dialysis, Unhjem was closely monitored in hospital and placed on the transplant list to replace both organs.
Meanwhile, back at home, neighbors were coming together to help the family, their kindness developing a surge of interest from cyber users around the world.
“Everybody knows the Unhjems, and they’re good people and good in the community, and [it’s] just kind of the farming way of life too. You help your neighbor out when they need it, and don’t expect anything in return,” family friend Jenna Binde told local news, KFYR TV. “I talked to a couple of farmers, got their equipment, and then other people just started calling and we had equipment offered from all over the place in the county, and their workers to go with it,”
With that collective mindset, neighbors put their own harvesting needs on hold, and showed up on Unhjem’s farm to get the job done.
“You reap what you sow! That’s the old saying that can apply to a lot of things in life. Well, today it has a two-fold meaning–harvesting crops and helping friends!” friend Don Anderson writes on his Facebook. “…Now that Lanes health is being taken care of, it came time for his friends and neighbors to spring into action, which is common in small town life. Approximately 40 to 50 farmers, driving combines, pulling grain carts, driving semis and various other harvest related items, converged on the Unhjem farmstead and they will take care of harvest for Lane and his family today. I believe there was about a dozen combines involved,”
It took less than 48 hours to execute the plan and then Anderson explained machinery “knocked off 1000 acres in just over 7 hours.”
It didn’t take long for the social media posts to go viral.
A man from Kansas writes, “It’s what America was built on–neighbors helping neighbors,” and one netizen from South Africa shares, “Awesome neighbors. If only the whole world would care for each other like this, what a great world it would be!”
Marvelling over the community’s efforts, Unhjem’s daughter Samantha Coates posted photos along with a heartfelt thank you on her Facebook. The post, shared days after her dad was hospitalized, is captioned, “We can’t thank you all enough for everything!! Here are just a few photos I was able to snag between everything. I have no words for how thankful we are for the support, prayers, and all you have done!! What an incredible community of loving and caring people we have!!!”
Friends and strangers jumped in with support and prayers.
One writes, “Coming from a farming family…. these pictures are worth their weight in GOLD and will be family treasures in many, many years to come,” while a second comments, “This is so awesome. I love hearing about my home community working together. Sending lots of prayers to your family.”
A third shares, “Neighbors helping Neighbors, it is a humbling sight”
On Tuesday, November 24, the family shared an update on Unhjem through an old GoFundMe (created to help cover the costs of costly medical bills): “We received word that they had a donor for both heart and kidney that was a perfect match for Lane! So, late on Wednesday evening, Lane went into surgery to replace his heart. The doctors were very pleased with how the heart transplant went and on Thanksgiving morning they took him back in to start the kidney surgery. Saying we had thankful Thanksgiving doesn’t do justice to the emotions we were all feeling that day!!!”
According to family social media, after 108 days in the hospital, Unhjem was released and had frequent appointments to check on kidney and heart functions, making sure there were no signs of rejection.
And, as of today, it seems he is doing better!
What a wonderful story! It is such a beautiful thing when people come together like this to help someone who stands to lose so much.
We are thankful to know there are people like this out there in the world, and we hope this story inspires others to do the same!