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Falling into grace

Professor Mark Newcom photographed with son, Stross, and wife, Joy, during a moment of his recovery from near fatal fall.

Professor Mark Newcom photographed with son, Stross, and wife, Joy, during a moment of his recovery from near fatal fall.

By Molly Maschka

As many professors were getting ready to start classes, one professor was looking forward to returning to campus after suffering a major accident.

Mark Newcom, one of Waldorf’s Communications professors, fell from a genie lift on December 4, 2014. He was helping Immanuel Lutheran Church hang greenery for the upcoming Christmas at Waldorf concert when he fell 35 feet.

“Going on the genie lift was something I have done years ago. This was supposed to be done a few weeks before the concert, but the genie lift had become broken,” Newcom said. “So when the janitor, Mike Olsen, texted me saying the genie lift was fixed, I told him I would be right over to help set things up.”

While at the church, Newcom, along with Olsen and Travis Beck, the choir director, were hanging greenery. When they were almost finished Beck thought there was a few more decorations he wanted to bring out and stayed behind to help Newcom. Beck worked from the base of the lift.

“When on the genie lift, the higher it goes, the more it shakes. Beck hit the light off, which was supposed to bring me down. I thought I was coming down, but then I noticed I hit something and was starting to fall. I saw my arms going back and the wind was rushing silently by me. Then watching the greenery go by me, then the stain glass windows. Panic started to kick in, knowing this was not going to end well. Plus, there was the realization I hadn’t told Joy I was going to be on the genie lift that day because I have always told her when I am using the lift. Then I hit the ground, where there was pain everywhere.”

Newcom’s wife, Joy, was in her nonfiction class when she received notice that he had been in an accident.

“I wasn’t shocked. I mean, Mark has done this before,” Joy stated. “Yet that day I didn’t know he was going on the genie lift. When I was told about his accident, all my concerns were about my boys.”

Newcom had landed in the middle of the church. Realizing he was not able to breathe, he tried to move on all fours. Pastor Greg Anderson and Andy Buffington, the emergency aide officer, rushed to Newcom’s aide. They told him to get on his back, holding his neck in place.

“Later after the accident, Andy Buffington said there was a moment where my eyes rolled back and I took a huge breath. He thought that was it, I was gone. Then PG (Pastor Greg) asked me if I was still with them, and that is when I woke up.”

When Newcom arrived in Mason City, the doctors discovered he had broken the top C2 vertebrate in his neck, the sacrea (bottom of spine), the ulna in his left elbow, all the ribs on his left side, and had hit an artery, causing internal bleeding. The doctors decided he should be taken to Mayo Clinic where he would receive the best care.

“The pain was just excruciating,” Newcom said. “The pain level was way over a 10.”

“Mark was losing a lot of blood, which wasn’t good,” Joy said. “When the doctors said he was going to Mayo, then I started to feel more relaxed. I knew this was a positive sign.”

Newcom under went multiple surgeries to repair his sacrea, elbow and the internal bleeding. While he was in surgery Joy kept his wedding band around her neck.

“When the nurse gave me his ring, I knew I could not lose it,” Joy said. “So I put it on this necklace so it could be a visual reminder that the journey is not over. Until he is fully recovered, he is not getting this back. I don’t know if I want to give it back (Laughing).”

Of course, the Newcoms could not have done it without the support of the Forest City community and Waldorf.

“The moment things happened, people were there,” Joy said with tears in her eyes. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

“I want to thank all the nurses, doctors, Waldorf and everyone for their support,” Newcom said. “I am very happy to be back at Waldorf.”