Chip Keller

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.

Flashing lights.Chip Keller 72 Hours Rita

Screaming sirens.

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.

Chip-Keller 72 Hours RitaThey moved in together in 1997. Since then, Chip has lived in the same trailer in York, Pennsylvania.

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.

Check out more at http://www.actiontrackchair.com

Check out more at http://www.actiontrackchair.com

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).

72 Hours Rita brotherHow often does the average person take for granted their ability to get off concrete?

How often do they take for granted their ability to use their hands?

Meet my brother. Now watch 72 Hours. 🙂

 

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One Response to Chip Keller

  1. Lewis Nelson July 22, 2013 at 8:05 PM #

    So… I just emailed this to Action Trackchair:

    [brief introduction of who I am]….

    Last fall, a friend of mine from the Army participated in the TNT reality show 72 Hours in Fiji.. the episode just aired on TNT last week on Friday. Rita is a fierce competitor and motivator who not only beat most of the guys at the Army physical fitness test, but would then run extra laps to help get the others across the line faster. She deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and was even injured in an IED blast her last tour. She then left the Army and became a river guide in Alaska. Why did Rita do 72 hours? Obviously it was for the adventure, but mostly, it was to win the $100,000 prize money so she could buy an Action Trackchair for her older brother. Her brother Chip, an avid outdoorsman and athlete, broke his neck twenty years ago during a pick-up football game and has been a quadriplegic living in the same trailer in York, PA, nearly ever since.

    No, Rita didn’t win 72 hours… but it was by no means a shortage of effort and skill on her part. But what happened next was a tragedy not shown on the TNT broadcast. Rita almost lost her life in the month after returning from Fiji. During the show, Rita, who’s had tons of survival training, ate a slug that was infested with Rat Lungworm. This is one of the most devastating parasites a human can encounter. Rita.. the avid dancer, runner, athlete, and motivator was almost paralyzed and still suffers from extreme hyper-sensitivity and difficultly moving… but in the true nature of who she is, a fighter, she’s still going strong. Despite the pain, she is still dancing, still defying the odds and impressing the doctors at the VA hospital.

    So why am I writing you? I don’t know how much an Action Trackchair costs. What I do know is that Rita and her brother Chip are the type of people that can symbolize the reason why you made this product… to help folks live their lives. I invite you to read Rita’s blog at http://tomorrowsnotguaranteed.com and specifically the post about her brother Chip at http://tomorrowsnotguaranteed.com/chip-keller.

    Next, I’d like to talk with you about how we can work together to get Chip in your chair and living his life to the fullest.

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