RURAL ARMSTRONG — Cody Conrady was unfolding a boom on a sprayer on a farm near Peoria when it either grazed power lines or electricity jumped from the lines to the sprayer boom.
“I grounded the sprayer, so I took all of the voltage,” Conrady said. “It entered through my left hand and exited out both of my feet.”
The 24-year-old Conrady lost all of the toes on his left foot, and his right leg was amputated below the knee.
He had to be resuscitated at the scene and spent 45 days in the burn unit at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.
The accident happened in May 2019. Four months later, he and his fiancee, Bailey Edenburn, were married.
At the rehearsal dinner before the wedding, his cousin saw him walking on two legs and asked him how “I had grown that leg back. I was wearing jeans, so she couldn’t tell,” Conrady said.
It provided a lighter moment after what had been a difficult time.
Recovery involved physical therapy and occupational therapy followed by strengthening his upper body.
“I didn’t have my prosthetic (arm) yet. We did that for 10 to 12 weeks,” Conrady said.
The lower leg prosthetic he received has worked better than the prosthetic arm, which is the first of its kind in the country.
Conrady received his leg 10 days before their wedding.
“My goal was to try to walk down the aisle, which was accomplished,” he said.
At first it wasn’t so easy walking with the prosthetic, but after a few days, “it just kind of clicked.”
He likened it to “not riding a bike for years and years, and then all of a sudden, you remember how.”
Getting used to the arm is an ongoing thing.
“I’m on the cutting edge of technology,” he said. “There’s three companies that put this together. One is a startup (company) on campus, and they made the hand portion of it, which works really well. The software, I guess in between that reads my arm so I can still move my muscles in my arm to fire the fingers ... and translates it into the finger movement. (It has) had some bugs in it that are being addressed. There are quite a few updates and fine tuning. It’s getting better.”
His left arm was amputated below the elbow.
“Thanks to the skills of Cody’s doctors, they were able to save his elbow by using a cadaver tendon to replace his bicep tendon,” Bailey Conrady said.
While Conrady has had to deal with a weight restriction while using that arm for the past two years, the hope is the restriction will soon be lifted.
The arm is equipped with two batteries, which allow him to do a full day’s work on the farm. Every night he has to recharge the batteries just like one does a phone.
Conrady has been able to resume a full range of activities. Besides the weight limitation, there are no other restrictions on what he can do on the farm.
Originally from the Lincoln area, he and Bailey met showing cattle at a Georgetown preview show. Both have a farm background. Bailey is assistant manager of the Champaign County Farm Bureau, while Cody works on Bailey’s family farm in rural Armstrong.
Prior to the accident, Conrady liked to run for fitness. He may be able to do that again.
“We’re working on a running leg,” he said. “There’s a guy up in Joliet who does prosthetics for people.”
He hopes to continue to work on the farm until he retires.
Conrady wants people to realize the dangers of power lines.
The Conradys have worked with Safe Electric on a safety campaign via social media; he gave safety talks for the Champaign County Farm Bureau; and was scheduled to give talks with Carle’s Center for Rural and Health and Farm Safety but so far has been prevented from doing so due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Conrady is working with a Peoria-based company “that is trying to prevent” what happened to him. He said the work is in the developmental stage.
“As far as farm safety, there’s just a lot of things out there” that can go wrong, he said. “Farming is a pretty dangerous profession.”