On the road to recovery

Webster City auto shop owner on the mend after hoist accident

-Messenger photo by Adri Sietstra Pat Blake’s left leg was severely injured in an accident at his auto repair shop on June 10. Blake has had multiple surgeries to repair the injuries he sustained.

WEBSTER CITY — What seemed like a routine work day in his repair shop quickly turned to chaos for Pat Blake.

“It happened so fast, I’m not sure exactly what happened,” he said. “All I heard was a click noise.”

The Webster City auto shop owner is recovering from an accident that happened at his business in early June. Blake, owner of Blake’s Auto Repair, was injured on the morning of June 10 when a car hoist landed on his left leg.

“I’m not sure if the vehicle shifted on the hoist, but the next thing I know I’m on the ground with the bone exposed out of the back side of my leg,” he said.

Pat Blake said he didn’t know if the car body changed positions or if maybe there was a weak spot in the body or the frame.

“The good thing was I wasn’t in a whole bunch of pain,” said Blake. “I think my adrenaline just got the best of me.”

“I was able to push my leg back down,” he said. “My foot was sitting at me, so I could see the bone hanging out of it. So what I did was I pushed the leg back down.”

He tried wiggling his toes and felt movement in them, which was positive. His mind quickly switched into survival mode when he realized he was losing a large amount of blood.

“Then I realized there was a lot of blood all of sudden. It just started pooling,” he said. “So I ended up taking my belt off and putting it around my leg and cinching it as tight as I could.”

One of his employees called 911. While waiting for the ambulance, he began to get lightheaded.

He was transported to Van Diest Medical Center in Webster City, and was then flown to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Blake said he was conscious until he fell asleep while in flight.

Pat Blake’s wife, Michelle, and three of the couple’s four kids were getting ready to go on a walk around town that morning when the call came in.

“I’m pretty sure all I said was ‘Oh, God’ a couple times,” said Michelle Blake.

He had taken her car into the shop that morning to fix the air conditioner, so she was without a way to get to him. An employee, Blake Johnson, picked her up and took her to the shop.

“I was just in shock,” said Michelle Blake. “I think he talked to me. I asked what happened and he told me and I don’t even think I heard a word he said on the way back down to the shop. You’re just in such shock.”

Pat Blake remembers waking up in the hospital to doctors and nurses.

He has gone through two reconstructive surgeries. At Mercy, there was an 11-hour procedure to restore blood flow to his leg. Several medical teams worked on him — trauma, orthopedics and vascular.

“Vascular ended up taking a vein out of my right leg and sticking it in my left leg,” he said. “Because when that bone did come up the backside of my leg it actually ripped my veins.”

The vein was transferred first to ensure that his foot and leg were functional.

Orthopedics then put an external fixator in his leg. The external fixator was two rods that went down through his leg and held the loose bone together to keep them straight and from moving around. Wound care then had to cut Blake’s legs open to reduce the swelling.

“The trauma was so bad in my legs that it was swelling at such a fast pace that they ended up having to open my legs up a little to release the pressure,” Blake said.

Blake spent more than two weeks in the hospital.

Skin grafts

He also had two skin grafts done Tuesday. His external fixator and wound vacuum have since been replaced with a knee brace.

Blake’s next visit to the doctor is Monday. The doctor will be looking at the extent of damage done to his left knee. According to Blake, one doctor said that he has ripped a tendon in his knee.

With a long recovery anticipated, Blake will be not be able to work for an foreseeable future.

“I think the hardest part of the accident was mentally at first — you know, wrapping my head around the whole situation of what happened and what’s going on … how long I’m going to be down,” said Blake.

Blake uses a wheelchair or walker to navigate around his home. A ramp was also installed in his porch so that he could get in and out of his home more easily.

“Transportation has been a big thing,” Blake said.

Family helped out

Blake’s brother, a CRNA, stayed with him at his house for the first two weeks he was home from the hospital. He helped changed wound dressings and help get his medicines in order.

Blake’s father, Pat Blake Sr., is helping out at the shop until Blake is back on his feet again. He has been traveling from northeast Iowa each week to keep the business running. He stays the week at Blake’s residence and drives the three hours back home each weekend. Blake’s employees Blake Johnson, J.C. Ogg, and Donovan Nokes are also key components to making sure things run smoothly at the shop.

“Thankfully, my dad was actually able to come in and help keep the shop going,” Blake said.

Blake’s father is a Ford senior master technician. He’s been a mechanic his entire life.

“He retired from a Ford dealership after this all happened and came down here to help keep this business going,” Blake said. “I’m very blessed by that.”

Blake’s first visit back to the shop was two and a half weeks after the accident.

“I try to get myself down there every now and then to try maintain sanity,” Blake said. “I want to see how everything is going and look over things and get out of the house for a little bit.”

Blake’s family has also been providing crucial support since the accident. He credits his wife and their children: Brock, 16; Abby, 11; Luke, 8; and Jude, 2.

“My son has been pretty good with the whole situation,” Blake said. “He really stepped up. I’m pretty proud of that.”

Blake hopes to continue to regain his health and get back to doing what he loves, spending time with his family and working at the auto shop.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll be on my feet before the end of this year,” said Blake. “I’d like to be on my feet at least before the kids get back to school.”

Community support

Blake was quick to note the overwhelming support he and his family received from the community in the accident’s aftermath.

“Everyone had my back in this situation and it kind of took the words out of my mouth,” said Blake. “It’s crazy. Everyone got behind me to help me get through this whole situation.”

“It makes you very humble,” Blake said. “There is really nothing that can even come close to the feeling I have.”

Michelle Blake echoed Blake’s thoughts.

“We’re definitely more and more thankful for each day,” she said. “All of the sudden all of those things that are big deals are just small things that you deal with daily.”

“I feel like a broken record,” she said. “We can’t say thank you enough for the calls, the texts, the messages, the cards, the prayers and the meals.”

“It shows you how strong this town actually is,” Pat Blake said. “After that movie about how communities get together, it hit the nail on the head of how supportive this community is and how strong we are.”

Blake and his family were also featured in the Square documentary “Made in Iowa” that premiered in Webster City June 15. The crew focused on the small town shop owner’s resilience in opening up his own business in Webster City.

“I think they did a phenomenal job,” said Blake. “They really hit the nail on the head.”

“I definitely got emotional over the film,” said Michelle Blake. “Pat just amazes me. He’s been so positive and truly wonderful.”

His family and business had such a positive impact on the crew, that many West Coasters donated to the GoFund Me account set up for Blake. Supporters included Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who donated $7,000.

“A bunch of people from California that we’ve never met donated money,” Michelle Blake said.

“Jack’s donation was pretty substantial. It was pretty jaw-dropping,” Pat Blake said. “I don’t think I met Jack once through the entire course of the whole movie and he donated that much money. It was crazy.”

Donations roll in

A GoFundMe page has been established to help offset medical expenses for Blake. The address for the GoFundMe page is: https://www.gofundme.com/pat-blake-family. An account has also been set up at First State Bank in Webster City.

The GoFund Me account alone has raised $24,190 for Blake’s medical expenses.