MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — North Dakota was the site of a harrowing story of survival, and a persistent father who refused to give up.
Dr. Richard Olsen, 70, broke his leg after falling into a ditch while pheasant hunting last month.
Without the ability to walk, the retired Mayo Clinic pediatrician pushed himself on the ground for 16 hours to find help.
“I had my eyes on the dogs. One minute I was walking and the next minute I was falling, and it happened that quick,” Olsen said. “Almost instantaneously, two thoughts flashed through my mind. That I didn’t have my cell phone, I knew that, and I knew this was going to be really bad.”
Olsen felt his femur break instantly.
“Just to touch it, more screaming. Just the worst pain I’ve felt in my life,” he said.
He used his gun as a crutch, and with his arms and good leg hoisted himself out of 4-foot-deep ditch. And then he fell back in.
“Not only fell in, but the broken leg got lodged between the boulder and the ditch,” Olsen said.
An hour-and-a-half later, discouraged but determined, he was scooting the half-mile back toward the road.
Thoughts of his family pushed him through until the early morning hours.
“About 4 a.m. I could really sense that I was losing ground. I was falling asleep a lot,” Olsen said.
If he was to survive, Olsen needed a new game plan. Only four thoughts could enter his mind.
“If any other thought came, I yelled, ‘No!'” Olsen said. “And the four thoughts were bend your knee, dig in your heel, check to see if your gloves were on and push. And that’s all I let in for the next five hours.”
Around 8 a.m., with frost bite on his fingers and in more pain than he can explain, he made it near the road. A ditch between the field and the road prevented him from getting to his car.
Several cars drove right by him as he waved his hands and yelled for help, until truck driver Bryant Duncan stopped. He provided blankets for Olsen until an ambulance arrived.
“He opened that door and all I did was blubber, but I blubbered, ‘Please don’t leave me,'” Olsen said. “He’s my hero.”
Duncan has called Dr. Olsen daily to check in to see how he is doing. More surgery could still be in his future, but Olsen is expected to walk again.
Olsen is now seeing doctors at Mayo and going through physical therapy there. He says his medical training did help some, but what became critical to survive were his stubbornness and persistence.