Alan Oberdeck Books



Polio Graduate 1953
I am Alan M. Oberdeck a APPA member since the 80’s when we met at Emory. I was born in Edgerton,
Wisconsin Feb. 1940. I grew up on a dairy farm 4 miles west of Edgerton. In addition to the cows we
raised tobacco. I attended a one room 8 grade country school.
In 1952 I had “plans’! Puberty had really hit me that spring and I was attracted to a special girl, I was
bored with farm life and when I became 16 I was going to get a motorcycle and head for California.
While working in the fields that summer I had the time to think about and plan my escape. School
started the day after Labor Day and I couldn’t wait to get back.
The Sunday of Labor Day weekend we were working in the tobacco field after we got home from church.
I felt dizzy and sick so dad sent me to the house. The next day (Labor Day) I had to sit on the potty and I
was so weak I had to call for mom to get me back to bed. Instead of going to school the next day my
dad carried me into the doctor’s office. I had a spinal tap after which I was too dizzy to even sit up. It
showed I had polio. I was hospitalized in Janesville, Wisconsin. I was devastated! So much for the plans
I had made for school that year.
I spent three weeks in the Janesville hospital and was treated by a bone doctor who measured me for
full body braces. At that time I could only use my left hand as the rest of my body was so weak. I didn’t
know it, but I had what at that time was called spinal polio and bulbar polio, but no iron lungs were open
so I never was placed in a lung.
My dad, through some 4-H acquaintances was put in contact with a person who knew of the Sister
Kenny Institute In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a polio treatment center. I was taken there and spent six
months in recovery.
When I was discharged I was able to walk with shortened wood crutches called “Kenny Sticks”. My body
was very weak, the right leg developed 1 inch shorter than my left and my right knee developed two
joints, I had to be careful when I walked and my right ankle wore a brace inside my shoe. At Sister
Kenny it was drummed into us that it was a competitive world and if we were to succeed we had to be
better than our competition to cover our disabilities.
I could not farm, I got an Associate Degree in Metallurgy, worked in a lab, worked as a draftsman and a
Design Engineer. I went back to school and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree and spent 35 years as a
traveling Salesman, most of the time covering 17 states although for a period of time I covered the
whole U. S. Canada and some of Mexico. The travel was exhausting, but I was able to rest between sales
calls. To the company I denied any probl;ems and put on a great sheared. I retired at age 66 and
became an author with six books in print.
I married my sweetheart in 1962 and we celebrated our 60 th this year. We have four children, 13
grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. I now walk with a walker and don’t go many places.

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