Payne's Favorite Story of 2023

Woman Survives Incredible Farm Tragedy

Susan Payne
By  Susan Payne , DTN Social Media and Young Farmer Editor
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A Minnesota mother of two survived being trampled by a steer. From left to right, Michele and Don Czanstkowski of Buffalo, Minnesota, next to Jared and Rachel Sands and Dr. Alex Coward of Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Sands)

Editor's Note: December naturally has us thinking back over the year that was, including the stories we've created. So, we've again asked DTN/Progressive Farmer writers to think back on their year and choose a favorite story from the archive. They range from hard-hitting investigative journalism and national scoops to farm family features and fun discoveries made while traveling U.S. farm country. We hope you enjoy our writers' favorites, with today's story by DTN Social Media and Young Farmers Editor Susan Payne.


OMAHA (DTN) -- My favorite story is one that weighed heavy on my heart as I spoke with the family. Although tragic, the outcome is the most memorable. Rachel Sands, 24 years old at the time, was trampled by a steer in early March and given a 1% chance of survival. However, she survived to continue her life as a cherished mother, wife and loved one to her family and community.

"This can happen to anyone," Buffalo, Minnesota, farmer Don Czanstkowski told me about his daughter. He shared details about how Sands was trampled by a steer: While loading four steers into a trailer for market, a scared steer turned around and ran toward Sands, knocking her down, bruising her legs and stepping on her heart.

Quickly, Sands lifted herself up on the fence for safety, but noticed her heart starting to hurt. Czanstkowski, quick on his feet, lowered her to the snow-covered ground until emergency responders appeared on the scene.

What inspired me to choose this as my favorite story was the strength Sands' family held onto, believing in the 1% chance of survival the medical professionals gave Sands: They didn't give up and I believe that spirit of faith carried them through this tragedy.

In the operating room at the hospital, as the medical team worked on her, Sands' heart stopped -- but after about 20 minutes of no heartbeat, the medical team was able to revive her.

Dr. Alex Coward told the family, "If Rachel's heart would have stopped anywhere other than the operating room, she wouldn't be here with us today." From that 1% chance of survival, Sands fought back and progressed to making it home, living and breathing. She was dealing with some memory issues at the time of publishing, but she said that incident wouldn't keep her from the farm.

"I love farming, being around the animals and the atmosphere," Sands told me.

Toward the end of the article, I listed some tips to avoid livestock injuries and some of the grim statistics that have been collected over the years.

I'm so grateful that I could tell this story and grateful that Sands and her father were willing to share their story with our readers, a story of triumph through tragedy.

You can read the full story, "Woman Survives Being Trampled by Steer," here:….

Susan Payne can be reached at

Follow her on X, formerly known as Twitter, @jpusan

Susan Payne

Susan Payne
Connect with Susan: