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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 18, 1986)
Plain determination . . . just routine
erry Radke remembers it as a routine
day. No problems. Just the normal
chores . . . jobs he had done hundreds of
times in his two years as a work-study stu
dent for the University of Nebraska animal
science department pens to clean, sheep
and cattle to tend, feed to prepare. Easy
But Nov. 20, 1984, was to be far from a
routine day for Terry Radke. Before it was
over, he would be near death, his body cut
and mangled, his life changed forever.
The day started normally about 9 a.m.,
when Terry began his shift. He got right to
work, turning on the mixer in the depart
ment's large storage room, emptying a cou
ple of sacks of ground corn into the 8-foot-
Next he place.' a 150-gallon plastic con
tainer on a forklift platform and filled it with
water. Carefully he raised the wooden plat
form until it was level with the top of the
mixer. Climbing onto the platform, he
gripped the top edges of the heavy container
and tilted it toward the mixer, letting the
water pour slowly.
Everything happened quickly after that,
but Terry remembers it all.
Without warning, his smooth-soled boots
slipped in some water that had spilled from
Suddenly he was falling, head-first, into
the mixer between two 12-inch steel "pad
dles" that were rotating through the feed.
His head stayed clear ot the paddles but one
hooked his right pant leg and sent Terry
swirling around the bar that held the pad
dles. His body spun under and 6ver the bar
lve or six times. The paddles sliced into his
right leg time after time, opening wounds
that quickly coated with feed. The paddles
cut nerves in his left arm leaving it useless,
and sliced off parts of his left arm and right
big toe. It all happened within a matter of
Terry's supervisor heard his screams for
help, and dashed to shut off the power.
Terry was left pinned in a fetal position, still
tangled hopelessly with the mixer.
It was "the worst possible position" he
could be in for a rescue attempt, recalls one
ol his protessors.
The supervisor and two professors waited
helplessly for medical help to arrive, com
forting Terry as best they could.
Within minutes, the rescue squad was
there. They went to work immediately.
One paramedic climbed in the mixer and
started talking to Terry to keep him from
going into shock.
A welder was summoned to remove one
side of the machine so Terry could be freed.
A surgeon arrived and climbed into the
mixer, working desperately to stop the bleed
ing and limi infection caused by the feed. To
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rescue workers and to Terry, it seemed slow,
agonizing work. Hot sparks from the cutting
torch struck Terry and he screamed in pain.
But finally 90 minutes after he had
fallen a two-foot square of metal was cut
from the mixer and Terry was slowly lifted
to a stretcher. Blood covered Terry's body.
On the way to the rescue squad, Terry
heard the familiar voice of a close friend, Fr.
"Only a dumb farmer would do some
thing like this," said the priest. Terry smiled.
At the hospital, doctors worked desper
ately to save Terry's life, to patch his torn
Terry said later that he knew he would
"I thought I'd make it all the time," Terry
said. "With all the people around, I thought,
there was no way I couldn't make it."
Fr. Kalin and Terry's sister Lynette, visited
Terry minutes before surgery.
They had doubts.
"He looked so pale," Lynette said. Pools
of blood covered the floor and soaked sheets
It was too much for Lynette.
She left the emergency room and cried.
Terry was taken to surgery. He would be
there three hours.
It was after midnight before Terry's par
ents arrived, making the long trip from
Lewellen in just six hours. Together with
Lynette and Terry's brother, Ron, they went
to visit Terry.
His body was so swollen, Lynette recalls,
that he didn't even look like himself. He was
covered with bandages.
But despite his condition, Terry showed
more concern for his family than his own
problems. He talked about everyone but
himself, said Lynette.
The physicians were frank. Terry would
survive, they told the family, but his right leg
There wrc two new machines1 at the
University ol Nebraska animal science.
Welded to the top of each machine are
metal cac guards preventing anvonc
from an accident similar to Terry V said
F.lcabcth Hawkins, a research techni
cian v ith the UNL Animal Science Depart
ment. A special device is now attached to
a forklift that hugs the water container
and tilts it over the mixer top edge.
Work-story students in the department
are now briefed befoie using the machines
and attend a special safety class.
One week after the accident, Terry agreed
to have the leg amputated.
Terry said he was well prepared when he
woke up after surgery. He knew his right leg
would be gone. A six-inch stump below the
right side of his hip was all that remained.
Lynette said Terry accepted the amputa
"It was the will of God," a friend said,
"and Terry understands that."
But it was a long recovery. Eight weeks
after he was admitted, Terry finally left the
It was four and one-half months before he
could be fitted for an artificial leg. And those
four and one-half months were, Terry said, a
time of acceptance. Other amputees visited
Terry and told him of their adjustments.
They gave him hints on how to master his
artificial leg. And they shared in his sorrow.
One girl, who had lost her leg in an auto
accident, was just across the hall from Terry.
They visited often, he said, and offered each
Today, almost a year and a half after the
accident, Terry is still recovering. The artifi
cal limb is no problem, Terry said. He still
rides his bike daily, strapping the foot of his
new leg to the pedal for safety.
His left arm is more of a handicap, he said,
because of nerve damage and because, after
treatments, it is shorter than his right arm.
Feeling in the arm has not returned com
pletely, he said.
But friends say that any handicap Terry
suffered from the accident has been comen
sated for by a new-found determination.
Nothing seems impossible for him, friends
say, and Terry seems to want to help others,
much like his friends helped him.
Terry's determination carried over to his
schoolwork and last December he received a
Bachelors degree in animal science. He
remained at UNL and is now studying for
his master's degree in swine nutrition. A
doctorate would be nice too, he said.
Friends say Terry has a "certain clumsi
ness" about him, but it doesn't keep him
from rollerskating, swimming or bowling.
And every other Sunday or so, you can find
Terry at Lincoln's Pla-Mor Ballroom
He has no hang-ups, his friends say.
Terry's sisters cites another example of
her brother's ability to cope.
Last winter her car broke down, Lynette
said. And Terry came to the rescue.
He "took it apart," she said, with one
hand, and put it back together, in subzero
Not a feat of any great skill, Terry might
say. Indeed a matter of . . . well, routine.
The SowerPage 6
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