11/02/07 — He didn't want to miss even one day

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He didn't want to miss even one day

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 2, 2007 2:04 PM

Send back the workman's compensation check.

Eddie Russell would rather be up on his crane.

Don't tell him to take a few weeks to cope.

The 64-year-old would not know what to do with himself.

For Eddie Russell, missing a morning at the scrapyard is a much greater loss than the lower third of his right leg doctors amputated last month.

Wounds heal in time, he said.

But the Dudley resident will tell you that you can't regain lost moments on the crane or with the "family" he has found at N.C. Salvage Co.

Maybe that is why he only missed a few days of work after the accident.

It was Sept. 19.

Russell was preparing to unload a tractor trailer full of industrial piping when the straps holding them in place came loose.

"He tried to run from it but it rolled on his leg," company president and friend Charles Daniels said. "It crushed him."

Wayne County EMS arrived at the scrapyard shortly after 2:30 that afternoon and transported Russell to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where he was then referred to Wake Medical Center in Raleigh for amputation.

Three days later, he was released.

But Russell could not walk his way out of that hospital. Even now, he uses crutches or hops on his left leg.

Daniels was not sure his veteran employee would ever make it back to work.

But he will tell you that in Russell's previous 44 years with the company, he had only missed "five or six" days.

"I went to see him that Monday and he said, 'Well, I have figured it out. There will probably be a truck coming in on Wednesday or Thursday. I'm going to load that next truck,'" Daniels said. "I said, 'Eddie, there is no possible way you can load all that. Your leg is chopped off.

"We told him, 'You've always got a job. Take some time -- six months or whatever," he added. "He looked at me. 'No. I'll be back Wednesday."

Co-worker Marie Smith was surprised that her friend was coming back so quickly, but not that he was coming back.

"He knows his job and loves it well," she said. "And he does it real good."

Daniels is still shocked.

"How do you cut your leg off and get back to work in four days?" he asked. "I don't believe that has happened before, not in the whole world. Forget Wayne County and North Carolina, he should be employee of the whole country."

Russell needs a little help getting on and off the crane, but since the machine is operated with levers, not pedals, he can still do his job, just like he did before.

So he scoffs at the suggestion that he is something special.

He is just another man who loves his job, he said.

"I've always loved this business. I love the work," he said. "But if it weren't for these people, I probably wouldn't be back to work. I just love the people I work with, from (Daniels) all the way to the bottom."

And they love him, too.

"Eddie has been a fixture here forever," Daniels said. "I told him, 'If you're ever fixing to go, you just let me know two weeks before you do. I'm going.'"

Russell tells his friend to get comfortable.

Even after the accident, this crane operator is not planning to hang it up any time soon.

"It's part of my life, but I know everything has to end one day. I just hope it's not soon," he said. "I know my health and strength might not hold up long enough for me to go on and on and on, but as long as it does, they will have me. I'll be here."

That suits Daniels and Mrs. Smith just fine.

"Eddie, he's like my family," Daniels said. "I don't have a son, but I have a daughter and love Eddie just as well."

"He really is family," Mrs. Smith added. "When you work with someone so long, it's like a marriage."