Fall days in this part of Wisconsin are perfect for jumping on an ATV for hours of fresh air, colorful landscapes and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow riders. That was the plan for Mike Overby Oct. 21, 2016, until things went horribly wrong. He is grateful to still be alive after an ATV accident that day and with the help of his partner, Kim Walstad, he is looking at the bright side of things.
Overby and Walstad have a cabin on the Apple River and are proud to call Amery their second home when they are away from their place in Zumbrota, MN. They have enjoyed Amery so much that they plan to retire here and look forward to spending more time with friends they have made in town. Some of those friends were made from an unlikely situation. They didn’t meet them at an area hangout or local event, instead they were met during life saving measures were taken on Overby after his horrific accident.
Overby and three friends were riding ATV on an autumn day back in 2016, when he rolled his ATV and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He is not able to remember what caused the accident. Responding to the scene were Apple River Fire, Amery Area Ambulance and Polk and Barron County Sheriff’s Departments.
There was also a mystery person who was the second to arrive at the accident. Overby said, “I have to go by what people tell me. A lady stopped and those on the scene said to her, ‘You do not want to see this.’ She stayed anyways. She walked toward me, stood and held my hand. Once First Responders arrived, she literally vanished. I do not know who she was, but I would sure like to meet her and thank her.”
Walstad said she believes God was shining down on Overby that day, as everything lined up just right for him to receive prompt and exceptional life saving techniques from those on scene, as well as tremendous care from neurologist Jon McIver once he was airlifted to Regions in St. Paul. “They all did such an amazing job,” said Walstad.
Overby was in the hospital just shy of two months. He spent six months recouping and according to Walstad, “A good year to functioning level.” Overby is now considered fully functioning but “It is a new normal,” said Walstad.
During his long road to recovery at Regions, Walstad stayed by Overby’s side. She said she was lucky to have friends and family who visited and brought her things she needed like changes of clothing.
Walstad said, “After I was there a little while, I realized I really needed to freshen up. Some one at the hospital brought me shampoo and I washed my hair in the sink. I was also given toothpaste. I encountered a woman in the restroom. She did not speak English, but I realized that she too needed to freshen up. I showed her she could use my toothpaste and her finger to sort of brush her teeth. I could tell she was thankful from her smile and the way she kept bowing at me on her way out.”
Because of that experience, Walstad now puts together toiletry bags and distributes them to Regions. She has brought over 900 bags to be used by families with loved ones in the hospital.
One place she collects donations for toiletries is at the Amery Area EMT building. Dan Gullickson, a former Amery EMT, was one of the people Overby credits with saving his life. Dan and his wife Nicole, also an Amery EMT have become friends with Overby and Walstad since the accident.
They have also become friends with members of the Apple River Fire Department as well as Jeff Hahn from the Polk County Sheriff’s Department and Jeff Wolfe from the Barron County Sheriff’s Department.
Overby said he was formerly District Chief of the Lakeville Fire Department. After helping people during traumatic events, he would always wonder what happened to them. That is why it was so important for him to reach out to the people who had a hand in saving his life and express his gratitude.
Together with their new area friends, the couple has done some fundraising events to raise money for Apple River Fire and the Amery Area EMS over the past two years. “We have been fortunate to work with Rick and Birch Street in town to be able to have chili supper fundraisers and we have also started annual ATV rides,” said Overby.
Each fall on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of his accident, Overby, Walstad, a group of friends and a growing number of new joiners, take on the ATV trails to raise money for a local cause. Many of the friends in that ATV group include those who were once strangers helping Overby through his incident. “These people have genuinely been concerned with my progress since my accident and they have become life-long friends,” said Overby.
He and Walstad will continue to give back as they are thankful for the blessed outcome of their situation. Walstad said, “All of it is our way to say thank you and our way of turning something good out of what started as a bad situation.”