Andrew Jutila feels fortunate to be alive.
Jutila, 29, Cloquet, could have easily lost his life when he was accidently backed over by an excavator May 30 while working on the College Drive project at the College Drive and Fourth Street South intersection in Brainerd.
It’s been nearly four months since Jutila’s accident; about two months since he’s been released from the hospital; and Thursday Jutila stood tall on the retaining wall that has since been built over the site where he once laid in severe pain waiting for emergency personnel to rescue him.
Jutila was in Brainerd Thursday visiting the site and the construction workers on the College Drive project. He also went to thank Brainerd police and fire officials and North Memorial Ambulance personnel for their work in rescuing him.
Jutila suffered significant injuries to his pelvic and leg areas and was taken by North Memorial Ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd and then transferred to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Jutila spent 56 days in the hospital and now spends three days a week in physical therapy.
Jutila has made close to a full recovery, but it has been a long road. Jutila broke the right side of his pelvis, fractured the left side of his pelvis, fractured his hip and had several internal injuries. He underwent several surgeries and he also had a blood clot in his lung, where “it was touch and go for awhile,” He said. He added his parents, Lyn and Bruce Jutila of Cloquet, were not sure what was going to happen.
Jutila said he does not have full function of his right foot, so he has to wear a hip/leg brace that helps him move his foot. He wears a bandage on his right arm which suffered severe road rash. He said the bandage is more to protect the skin from the sun and dirt.
Jutila was conscious the entire time of the incident, which was reported at 11:24 a.m.
Jutila and the excavator operator, Daniel Carlson, Cloquet, and three others employed by Andrew Jutila Companies of Scanlon were at the job site at the time of the incident. Jutila said the company’s responsibility was to work on the landscaping and install the retaining wall off College Drive, located just south of the Brainerd High School South Campus.
“I was walking up to the machine to tell Dan about getting lunch,” said Jutila. “I reached up to knock on the cab to get his attention, when my feet got caught under the tracks (of the excavator) and I went down and it pinned me down up to my ribs.
“I remember everything.”
Jutila said Carlson was able to stop right away because he saw Jutila’s safety vest and Carlson called 911. Jutila said another employee, Wyatt Lemke, ran up to him and asked him what they should do. Jutila told them to lift the tracks up it helped relieve the pressure on his body.
“He (Lemke) held my head the whole time while I laid there,” said Jutila. “I kept saying over and over again ‘Oh my God pain.’ I lost my vision, but when I got to the hospital in Brainerd I could start seeing again.”
Before emergency personnel arrived and while Jutila laid at the scene in pain, he said that since the excavator stopped, he knew that he was going to be OK. He said if the machine would have kept moving that he wouldn’t have made it through.
“I kept telling myself that I would be OK,” said Jutila. “The biggest thing I felt was that I was lucky. I’m fortunate to be alive. It could have been a lot worse.”
Jutila, who has two children, Olivia, 6, and Carter, 3, said his friend, Kyle, was the first person to see him at the hospital, before his parents.
“My friend told my parents that I wasn’t looking good, but I was alive,” said Jutila. “He told them that I was telling stupid jokes already so they knew I’d be OK.”
Jutila hopes to get back to work with operating equipment in the spring.
Jutila’s hometown of Cloquet is hosting a benefit for him Oct. 27. For more information on the benefit to help Jutila contact Beth Iallonardo at 218-969-5632 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Cindy Peterson at 218-393-9823 or email@example.com.