'It's one of those calls you never forget': First responders welcome home boy after farm accident

IOWA COUNTY, Wis. - A 9-year-old southwest Wisconsin boy might not be alive if it wasn’t for a fast-responding team of first responders and close access to Medflight. 

That is the reality of Tanner Kliest’s story. He is back home in Livingston after a month-long stay in the hospital, recovering from near-deadly injuries in a farm accident, where he was trampled by cattle in a pen. Tanner was able to get to the hospital and receive the care he needed so badly thanks to the availability of first responders and the location of a Medflight, based in Iowa County since 2016. 

News 3 reported on Tanner’s accident, his remarkable recovery and his homecoming. Wednesday night, we were there for a reunion of another sort.



Tanner showed up to the Iowa County EMS Appreciation Supper at the county airport. It was his first time seeing many of the first responders and Medflight doctors who saved his life two months ago. He pulled himself up into the helicopter itself, where he hasn’t been since that April day when the flight to Madison was the only thing between him and death. 

“The odds of someone like Tanner surviving are probably less than 5 percent,” said Dr. Drew Cathers, a Medflight physician with UW Health. 



Dr. Cathers took the call that day. Medflight met first responders at Iowa Grant Schools, just down the road from where Tanner’s accident happened. 

“Tanner’s heart had actually stopped and EMTs were doing CPR on him,” he remembered.

Cathers jumped in the ambulance and gave Tanner compressions all the way to Dodgeville, where he received more blood then was Medflighted to Madison for an emergency surgery. It would be his first of four. 

“If we weren’t able to get his heart restarted and blood moving … he wouldn’t have survived,” Cathers said. 

He was at the appreciation dinner to shake Tanner’s hand Wednesday. 

“It’s really unusual in this line of work to have such a dramatic turnaround,” he said. “To see someone who was effectively dead - then to have them running around on a sunny day.”

The reality doesn’t escape Tanner’s parents. 

“We’re speechless,” said Mom Becky. “They’re a vital part to why he’s still here.” 

The moment perhaps means a little more for her. As an EMT herself, she was there when Medflight was first housed at the Iowa County hangar. 

“I said it here two years ago – that Medflight is a crucial part to the rural community, to be able to get to higher medical care faster,” she said. “Being on this side of the fence makes me appreciate what I do even more.”

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