Alan Oberdeck Books



How I got run over by a waitress in a restaurant and survived

Back in January of 1998 I was making sales calls with a distributor salesman at the
Waupaca Gray Iron Foundry in Waupaca, Wisconsin. At that time they were in the
business of taking steel scrap, melting it down and turning it into manhole covers. Our
job, that morning, was take an “Air Survey” of their plant air system to recommend
system up-grades to save them money.
As you might have guessed, I was in a business suite wondering around in a dirty
foundry. Part of the process of making manhole covers was to cast them in sand molds
and the sand was held together by a mix of a small amount of clay and common baking
flower. When the red hot liquid iron was poured into the moulds the flower part of the
sand/flower mix turned into carbon black dust which when the cast manhole cover was
“shaken loose from the mold” went everywhere. Therefore at lunch time when we left
the foundry to go to the restaurant we took some of that carbon dust with us.
Waupaca is located midway up the state in what you would call the eastern part of
the state. In January there is usually a moderate amount of snow in that area. The air
temperature is usually very cold, but I remember it was mild with some melting that day
and any snow you walked through stuck to your shoes. Because of weak ankles I wore
cowboy boots and they came with leather soles. That made me very careful walking on
the patches of ice on the ground, road ways and sidewalks as we headed to the restaurant
for lunch.
Once inside the restaurant we were seated at a table. On the way to the table I had
noticed that the floor was damp and with the damp floor, the carbon dust on the leather

soles of my cowboy boots made the floor very slippery, so I had to be careful as to how I
Considering where we had been, both of us headed for the restroom to wash. The
restrooms were located on one wall of a hall and there was a corner leading to the
kitchen. When we were done in the bathroom and were leaving I was ahead of my
salesman walking up the narrow hall. When I walk, I have very little feedback from my
feet and legs and if I don’t watch, “the ground comes up to meet ME!”, so long ago I had
developed the habit of looking at the “ground” for visual feedback. Me, looking down at
the slippery floor coming to the corner, I didn’t see the waitress, but I guess she didn’t
see me either.
There she was with a tray loaded with food barreling straight on a collision course
directly at me. The thoughts that went through my mind! “She is not slowing down.
There is a lot of messy food on that tray. If we collide it will be messy! My suite will be
ruined. I must get out of the way! Can I stop my forward momentum?”
When I tried to slow down my weak left leg slipped on the moist floor and in the
process of falling I shattered my tibia plateau. Fortunately, for my suite, the waitress was
able to control her tray of food and was able to deliver it, intact, to her hungry table. My
suite was not ruined. However there I lay on the floor trying to move my right leg.
Eventually the Emergency Crew arrived and took me to the Waupaca Hospital
Emergency room. There they x-rayed my knee and told me I had shattered the tibia
plateau with seven breaks. I called my boss on my cell phone. I and told him what had
happened, I told him that I had everything under control and I was going to make
arrangements to get back to Atlanta. While they were casting me I got on my cell phone

and made arrangements to fly back to Atlanta that night. I was optimistic that I could,
with help of the airline be back home to have the knee looked at. They issued me my
crutches and reality set in.
They stood me up beside the gurney I had been on, I took a couple of steps with
my crutches, and they hurriedly laid me back down. Although I had the appearance of a
normal person of 58, because I had hidden my weakness so well, “Denial and Charade”,
that even I didn’t suspect how weak I was. I couldn’t manage the extra weight of the cast
on my right leg to even walk with crutches, but I was told that I had lost all color and
they were afraid I was going to pass out in front of them.
While The Doctors at Waupaca were making the arrangements to take me to a
hospital that could handle the operation I would need, I got on the cell phone and undid
all the arrangements I had made to be home in Atlanta that night. I was loaded into an
ambulance and transported to Theda Clark Hospital in Neenah, Wisconsin for further
evaluation. Finally the time that Eileen would be home from her Nursing Job at Dekalb
Hospital had arrived and I gave her a call on the cell phone to tell her what had happened.
To say the least, SHE was not pleased.
That night my wife and I had a long talk on the cell phone. She offered to fly up
to Neenah and be with me for whatever was going to happen. I felt that that was not
necessary and told her there was nothing for her to do and she would just be bored silly
hanging around the hospital.
The next day I had a long talk with my boss. I told him I would keep him up to
date as to what was happening, that I had everything under control. My company offered

to fly my wife to Neenah to be with me, but I explained to him that she and I had decided
that that was not logistically possible.
About three in the afternoon the orthopedic surgeon from Theda Clark came in
and visited me. He introduced himself. He was one of the orthopedic surgeons on the
staff of the Green Bay Packers football team at that time. He stated the options I had: the
first option was to stabilize the leg and fly me back to Atlanta for treatment and let the
local doctors decide what to do. The second option was to have the knee operated on at
Theda Clark and he could do the operation in several days when the swelling went down.
He then discussed what I wanted done with the knee. The fact that I had had Polio was
factored in as to how mobile I needed to be. If I was not very active and used a wheel
chair the usual treatment would be to fuse the bones of the knee so I could sit
comfortably and get around with a permanently bent knee on crutches. With the nature
of the break a normal knee replacement would not be possible. It was his assessment that
I would never be able to walk normally again. I explained that I had led a very active life
despite my muscle problems with Polio and I didn’t want to be wheelchair bound. He
then suggested that he could possibly rebuild the knee in a way that might give me the
ability to walk, but it was possible that it wouldn’t work.
I had the operation in a couple of days. He was able to put the bones back
together with a plate and seven screws. It worked well enough that I would be able to put
weight on it and walk. I beat the odds again! I walked with a brace on my leg and a cane
to help with stability. I was able to work as a Traveling Salesman for eight more years.
“Denial and Charade” worked! My boss never knew the extent of my weaknesses and I
was producing the sales results in my territory. My travel schedule was usually so

strenuous that people from the factory didn’t want to come out of the office and ride with
The operation though did leave me with some unintended consequences. When I
had Polio I had both what was then called spinal and bulbar. The bulbar affected my
breathing. The first time that problem came up is when I was 18 and had surgery on a
deep cyst. They couldn’t wake me up for a couple of days. The second time it came up
was when I had gallbladder surgery. They went light on the anesthesia, but I still had
trouble waking up. Before the operation I had a long talk with my anesthetist about that.
He said he would keep that in mind. Usually during long surgeries they also use a drug
to erase any memories that I might have if I awakened during the procedure. I woke up
and had no memories from it, I felt no after effects from the surgery, until I began
traveling again. Before my surgery my brain had a sense or a memory of most major
cities in the U.S. that I traveled to. I couldn’t get lost in them because I had a map
memory. After the operation I got lost in Kansas City and with a map I couldn’t find my
distributor for two hours! That is how I learned what amnesia was all about and was able
to use it in one of my books.
The other thing that happened during the operation was the way they placed me
on the operating table. My neck muscles were never very strong. Somehow due to the
way I was positioned on the operating table due to muscle weakness and the time I was in
that position they pinched a nerve in my neck which affected my right hand. My thumb
and two fingers work, but I lost the use of my two other fingers.

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