Pressing On: La Crosse powerlifter survives freak accident thanks to local doctors

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – One La Crosse man was staring death in the face after a freak weight lifting accident. Whether he lived or died depended on a group of local doctors who rarely see this kind of injury.

The mark of a great competitor is not measured solely by triumph. The ability to press on after defeat is what births a legacy you cannot delete. Todd Stinson Has been competing since he was 19 years old.

“It’s been a hobby for me,” Stinson said. “It’s just something I enjoy.”

Pressing On

He started powerlifting before it was cool.

“Most of the local high schools now have a powerlifting team,” Stinson said.

He became so good he broke a national record for his weight class.

“If you convert it to pounds it was 418 pounds,” he said.

Pressing On

Todd will not brag despite lifting more than double is own weight.

“I am a little guy,” Stinson said. “To me, it’s always been, ‘Did I do better than I did last time?'”

His sons Hunter and Noah have grown up with his success.

“We loved playing with all of his trophies and stealing them from him,” said Hunter Stinson.

Noah Stinson said there was always a chance his dad would bring home hardware.

“How big is this trophy going to be that dad brings home?” Noah Stinson said.

Todd’s next challenge weighed 425 pounds. Todd began training for a national competition at Iron Physique Gym about a year ago.

“Sunday morning is always bench day,” Hunter Stinson said. “I was feeling really good about the day and how he was feeling.”

However, Noah Stinson said the moment would rapidly turn grim.

“It just took a nasty turn,” Noah Stinson said.

Todd Stinson said they did everything right but an accident happened.

“I had all of the spotters in place,” Stinson said. “I came down to find and I exploded up about three-quarters of the way. Then my shoulder collapsed.”

His spotters were powerless to stop it.

“The fact that it didn’t come straight down and exploded off of me out, they couldn’t reach it time to catch it,” Stinson said. “The bar landed on my lower chest.”

The long time Mayo Clinic Health System Employee became a patient.

“The first thing he said was, ‘Call an ambulance,'” Hunter Stinson said.

At first, Stinson said he thought he would be okay.

“It didn’t feel like things were all that bad,” He said. “I just figured I had some broken ribs.”

Todd was a right a CT scan revealed broken ribs.

“We decided to admit him to the hospital early on for pain control,” Dr. Michael Roskos, a general surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

However, the problem was located in an area the scan didn’t see at first.

“His blood pressure dropped precipitously and his overall clinical status changed dramatically,” Roskos said.

A radiologist ordered a second scan of his liver.

“Everything went crazy from there,” Stinson said.

Hunter Stinson and his family knew something was wrong.

“Everything seemed ok at first,” Hunter Stinson said. “Then the doctor is telling you he needs to have surgery immediately to basically save his life.”

Stinson’s liver was cut and bleeding rapidly.

Pressing On

“The doctor said, ‘There’s internal bleeding. You are about to crash. We are going to get you into the ER and get you stable,” Stinson said. “It was very scary.”

Surgery was required for an injury typically done at a level I trauma center. Mayo Clinic La Crosse is a level III.

Pressing On

“We don’t see this very often,” Roskos said. “Liver injuries can be among the most challenging injuries to manage.”

Intensive care unit chair Dr. Joseph Poterucha said a complex procedure was necessary.

“That’s not something you can just put pressure on,” Poterucha said.

A group of physicians, radiologists, and Dr. Roskos went to work.

“We quickly moved our operating room team here,” Roskos said.

Years of experience were tested to the max.

“Every surgeon should be able to be a trauma surgeon,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, surgery chair at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

Their effort helped ensure Stinson could survive a helicopter ride to Mayo Clinic Rochester.

“You could see where the bleeding site was. He probably had two or three liters of blood in his abdomen,” Roskos said. “I think it’s a miracle.”

The trip was successful and so was Stinson’s second and final surgery.

“It is pretty remarkable,” Sawyer said.

Stinson was back to work in just a few weeks.

“I can’t imagine if we missed on this one,” Poterucha said.

A group of doctors expecting the unexpected saved a father and husband. Todd is back pressing on, not as a competitor, but as a mentor.

“I’m here. Do I need to compete again absolutely not,” Stinson said. “My family. I get to see them every day. I get to see my coworkers every day. I get to see them.”

Noah Stinson said it was inspiring to his dad lift again.

Pressing On

“When he was finally able to bench again, helping him lift that bar off and being there for him was amazing,” Noah Stinson said.

The day of Stinson’s injury was a moment marked by misfortune, but the response to it ended in triumph.

“A lot of things went right that day,” Stinson said. “Even though a lot of things went wrong, a lot of things went right.”

Todd said he is not planning on returning to competition any time soon. He said he doesn’t want his experience to deter any weight lifters out there.

He said people just need to make sure they are practicing safe lifting measures. Accidents can happen. Those who aren’t sure how to do something make sure you ask someone to help you.