“I had to learn that I’m not invincible.” The age-old adolescent perception of immortality can be drawn back to a myriad of factors. Regardless, teenagers too often play to their stereotypes and assume they are immune to life’s forever-occurring challenges and temptations. Some think, “Drugs won’t kill me” or “I’ll be fine with just one more shot,” and probably one of the most prominent showcases of the “unconquerable” mentality takes place on the road.
“They were running late and started going a little too fast.” Those words are a typical beginning to a too-common occurrence among high school students. Under that umbrella unfortunately falls Chase Klima, junior. “I was trying to get to school, and I looked up and realized I was too close to the median. I yanked the wheel, and the next thing I know, I was in a ditch,” said Klima. The car rolled four times before coming to a stop in the ravine. After trying to walk up the hill and realizing his legs weren’t working, he crawled back into the cab and found his phone on the brake pedal. Life 360, a location-sharing app, detected the wreck and asked Klima if he was in an accident and needed 911 to be called. He had done that already, so the app notified his emergency contacts that he was in a crash but okay.
Klima was hyper-aware of the situation at hand. His car was smoking, and he had to make some possibly life-or-death decisions, as he was unaware of how injured he truly was. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to die in a fire. I would rather lay out here and die instead.’ If you have a break in your pelvis and it severs the main artery down there, you will bleed out in 90 seconds,” he said.
After the ambulance came, Klima was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in case being airlifted to another hospital was necessary. He was in stable enough condition to be transported to the U of I Hospital without a helicopter and received immediate medical attention upon arrival. “They wanted to make sure I hadn’t damaged my spinal cord or had any internal bleeding,” said Klima. The doctors found that due to pelvic injuries, his urethra had been detached from his bladder, so surgery was needed to install a catheter tube through his stomach. He said, “In December, I will have a reconstructive surgery where they will piece all of it back together.” This will hopefully be the end of the accident-related procedures.
After a life-threatening experience, returning to a “normal” life at high school could pose a challenge. Luckily, Klima was able to take the entire first quarter to dedicate to recovery due to having enough credits previously. “The first two weeks after [the accident], I probably wouldn’t have been able to remember school anyway because of the hard sedatives I was on,” he said. According to Klima, Mr. Semler, principal, was very understanding about the situation, and Klima was able to withdraw from first quarter classes without penalty in order to rehabilitate. In fact, Semler was calling to check on Klima’s well-being mere minutes after the accident. “When the cops came, they asked what school I went to… Officer Davis heard [what happened]on the radio and called Semler,” said Klima. He said that it was nice to know that people cared.
Klima has had to go to numerous physical therapy appointments to get to where he is. He had to relearn how to do something most don’t think twice about–walking. He said, “It’s like you know how to move your feet and your legs, but they just won’t move.” He mentioned that he worked really hard in PT to get to where he is today and had relatively good spirits throughout the process.
“I’m not invincible,” said Klima. “Before I would go into stuff thinking, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to get hurt. I’m a big kid with padding and cushioning.’ But no, it hurts.” Klima’s biggest takeaway from this experience was to pay attention while driving. Luckily for him, his story can now serve as a cautionary tale for all adolescents. While the circumstances in which he learned this life lesson were dire, it is a lesson most teenagers don’t learn soon enough.