Local Man Recovers From Life-Changing Crash

June 27, 2012 began like any other morning for Chris Vangelder as he headed off to work on his motorcycle until a crash with another car changed his life forever.

"A police officer I knew came over to me and I asked him to call Courtney, my wife, and tell her to call the shop to tell them I'd be late for work because I still thought I was going to work," said Chris.

What Chris didn't realize is his right foot was severed in the accident and his leg badly damaged. He was medflighted from Mashpee, Massachusetts, to Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

Dr. Reuven Rabinovici and his trauma team were among those who treated Chris.

"He sustained a combination of highly lethal injuries," said Dr. Rabinovici.

Chris' injuries included a split pelvis, major blood loss from his abdomin, spine fractures, and the eventual amputation of his leg.

"His injuries were so severe he required 31 surgical procedures," said Dr. Rabinovici.

During his first few days in the hospital, Chris went through more than 130 units of blood. As doctors worked to assess him, Chris flat lined three times - once for close to 7 minutes.

"Clearly Chris looked into the eyes of death and prevailed," said Dr. Rabinovici.

After two weeks in a coma, Chris woke up.

"That's when they realized while I had passed away I lost blood flow to my optic nerves and that's when we figured out that I was blind," said Chris.

Spending 72 days at Tufts, 35 of them in the ICU and another 50 in a rehab facility, Chris finally returned to his Mashpee home to continue his recovery with his family.

"I wanted life to be as normal as possible- I knew life had changed," said Chris.

Against all odds, Chris has established that new sense of normal. Despite questions of whether he'd walk again, determination and advanced prosthetics have given him that chance.

Today, Chris is back working at his repair shop part time. He is en trying to master rebuilding transmissions using touch and memory, but his desire to push forward doesn't end there.

Chris now spends time talking to driver's ed classes about motorcylce safety. He's returned to Tufts to mentor other trauma patients and their families. Last year, he coached his son's soccer team to a South Coast championship.

"I always say i'm the only one legged, blind soccer coach in America..I haven't met one yet anyway," said Chris.

It's that sense of humor, along with the unwaivering support of his family, that Chris credits with getting him to where he is today. He has left a lasting impression on his caregivers who call him a true inspiration.

"To me, the story of Chris surviving catastrophic injuries symbolizes the strength and splendor of the human spirit," said Dr Rabinovici.

"I can't imagine not moving on with life. Just one of the major things is to just keep moving, get up and go," said Chris. 

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