My brother, Chip Keller, was a handsome, athletic kid with seeking blue eyes and a friendly smile. He loved to be outdoors, and was an avid hunter, fisherman, and crab trapper. He worked a physically challenging job on a chicken farm, and loved to swim in the Swatara Creek,”The Swatty,” with friends. He was a wrestler and never turned down a pickup football game.
As a young girl, having an active brother like that was like watching a Greek God move about the family. He was a mysterious super hero to me…so fast…so tough…so smart…such a smart ass…
In the early afternoon of August 21, 1993, Chip was playing a pickup football game at a park in Reading, Pennsylvania. He had the ball, and in a display of his youth and athleticism, was charging up the field for a touchdown. He was stopped, though not brought down, by a defender, who only managed to get my brother’s head under his arm. A second defender then, clipped the young athlete at the hips, sending him spinning in the air.
Miraculously he landed on his feet!
He stumbled backwards two steps.
Nobody knew in that moment that the young 19 year old super hero had taken his last two steps. His neck had been broken at c3.
Suddenly everything changed.
The brightness of his future began to fade with the blaze of the setting sun as the fight for his life began.
He was taken to the hospital and spent 6 weeks being stabilized in the Intensive Care Unit. When it was all said and done, he had six new screws, one plate, and a piece of his hip bone had been removed to replace the shattered bone in his neck. He was in a halo (with screws in his skull) for two and a half months.
He remained in Reading from August until early October, after which he was moved to Hershey Medical Center for three months of rehabilitation before being released in December; a month before his 20th birthday.
The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation helped him by sending him to school for Computer Aided Drafting and got him a bed with rails once he graduated, so he wouldn’t fall out if his spasms got too intense. At school he became quick friends with Ed, his next door neighbor.
He doesn’t have the freedom to get up and go, see the world, or even take a vacation.
He applied and put in resumes for computer aided drafting jobs, but was always denied in the interview.
“We need someone with more experience,” they’d say.
On the 21st of August this year, it will have been 20 years that he’s been a quadriplegic.
Over half of his life.
The doctors didn’t expect him to make it to 40.
He’ll be 40 on January 2nd.
This is why I participated in 72 Hours, because the freedom that I’ve obtained by simply taking my life into my own hands after being in the system for 8.5 years wasn’t afforded to him. I want to get him an Action Track Wheelchair and take him on an epic cross country road trip wherever he’d like to go in the continental US.
I told him of this plan, and asked for him to give me a list of all the places he’d like to see and visit if he had the chance. It brought me to tears. The third item on his list was: Out in the mountains, back roads (no concrete).
How often do they take for granted their ability to use their hands?
Meet my brother. Now watch 72 Hours. 🙂