Dave Sandler. Courtesy of Dave Sandler.

‘Taking a Detour’: Dave Sandler had a near-death experience. Now he’s prospering.

Dave Sandler, also known by his radio name, “Detour Dave,” has been doing work on the radio since his college years at the University of Maryland in College Park. Sandler majored in television and film and has been in the broadcasting business ever since.

“I worked with a college radio station and thinking of establishing a career in sports broadcasting,” Sandler said. “So I had looked for a position in either radio or TV doing sports. It was very competitive. I didn’t get anything for the first six or seven months. I finally landed a position in the Baltimore area at WCVM radio. My first position was assisting in the news department as a desk assistant. This got my foot in the door; made very little money, and got my start in the radio business.”

Sandler has not only become a radio personality over the years. He has become a motivational speaker, a DJ at parties, and has published his own book.

“I think when you end up being in media, you get a lot of experience doing public speaking,” Sandler said. “Certain folks ask you to do specific thing and make public appearances. Someone who worked at the radio station, who owns an entertainment company, asked me if I wanted to be a DJ. I did a little bit of DJ’ing on the radio, but never private parties. I wrote my book after 30 years of being in broadcasting myself. Obviously I had a ton of stories to tell.”

Sandler’s book, “Taking A Detour,” is an autobiography of personal life experiences and near-death experiences. Sandler learned from these experiences in his own life and shares his journey back to doing what he loves.

“The main story, when I was 20-years-old, I contracted Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had had all the cancer diagnosed with radiation therapy. After several months, I was able to beat it with the radiation therapy. Then I went back to my career in radio and got back in school,” Sandler said.

“About 28 years later, I collapsed and was dying on a softball field,” Sandler said. “The reason that happened was from the radiation that wound up curing my cancer in 1982. Some of the arteries were narrowing to my heart, four of them were 80 percent blocked.  This caused the collapse on the field.”

The cardiologist, who was a member of the softball team, happened to not be playing that day, brought his son out to the game. The cardiologist saw all of this happening from the stands, ran onto the field, and performed cardiovascular pulmonary resuscitation on the field. He brought Sandler back to life after 45 seconds. After cardio-resuscitation, Sandler found out his arteries were almost completely blocked. A quadruple bypass surgery was performed to open up the arteries. After the surgery, a pacemaker and defibrillator were installed in Sandler’s body.

All Sandler’s stories of survival, radio, and persevering through a difficult business would lead him to co-writing a book.

Aside from writing a book with the help of Dorrie Ashel, Sandler had started pursuing motivational speaking.

“I think motivational speaking came from a natural progression of writing the book to telling the story. I think that is the kind of path I wanted to take. When people took notice of the book, they asked me to speak in front of specific groups. After multiple groups asked me to speak, I think motivational speaking naturally came along,” Sandler said.

Sandler has spoken in front of groups ranging between a few people and 500 people. Multiple groups have reached out to Sandler in the past to speak about his life journey to inspire others. But where did Sandler’s motivation come from?

“I have been given so many second and third chances. I have no reason not to be motivated. If I wasn’t, it would defeat the whole purpose of persevering and getting past adversity. Getting up everyday and doing what I love is easy. I do not need the motivation; it is already built in,” Sandler said.

Sandler’s biggest inspiration when starting to get involved in radio was Chuck Thompson, who did play-by-play for the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Colts. Thompson had motivated and inspired Sandler to continue pursuing a career in radio.

Dorrie Anshel, co-author of Sandler’s book “Taking a Detour,” recalls what it was like working with Sandler.

“Dave is an easy-going person; so easy to work with,” Anshel said. “Great collaborator, turns things in on time, and a real pleasure to work with. Dave was always an incredibly upbeat, positive, optimistic person. What I observed from him was his incredible well of resources. Being able to recall your way back from illness, have a major setback after another, is just incredible.”

Anshel recalls Sandler reliving the stories that made him the person he is today while they wrote the book together.

“I think Dave discovered so much about himself,” Anshel added. “It is difficult to recall pain in great detail. Details of procedures, or conversations with physicians, and the discomfort he went through. I remember him describing to me and putting me in the room with him.”

John Patti, news anchor and reporter for WBAL radio, also recalls working with Sandler.

“Dave and I have known each other for over 30 years, and we met at WBAL radio,” Patti said. “I was a newscaster, and Dave came on to do traffic. Working with him was interesting because he was a local like myself. Dave knew all the roadways when giving a detour for traffic. He knew what he was talking about, he was not just reading it off a screen or map. Every time I introduced Dave on traffic, I knew I was going to get the real deal with traffic.

“I don’t think he has ever had an enemy. I don’t think he has ever burned a bridge with someone. He is such a nice, warm guy to work with. He has been able to advert problems and make it into a positive.”

Patti recalls his admiration for Sandler while working with him at WBAL radio.

“Dave has the ability to dance around a problem. Anytime there was any kind of miscue on the radio, Dave would dance around it and come out ‘smooth as silk,’” Patti said. “One thing that always stood out to me was during his first afternoon report, he would always know where traffic backups were. He was able to tell you just based off time, what roads to use and not to use.”

Patti explains the struggle that Sandler went through and the inspiration he has been to others.

“Dave has had an interesting twist on life. He is able to motivate people from his near death situation. He was able to not only inspire through broadcasting, but also through his health adversity from health problems. Dave lost his job at WBAL radio, and then got it back,” Patti said.

Sandler also explained the kind of legacy and person he wants people to remember most about him.

“I want people to remember me as a guy who wanted to give back to his community. A guy who wanted to inspire people to be better. A guy who got up and delivered a message of inspiration. And also a guy who helped people get through a tough day.” Sandler said.

“When you are delivering information regarding traffic, you are helping people steer around an obstacle. I feel like my whole life has been around helping people around obstacles. These roadblocks are easily detoured if you find the right path.”

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