The long journey to recovery will continue for a Green River man who was injured in a near-fatal 4-wheeling accident back in June.
On June 12, 2022, Green River couple Katie and Chris Rasmussen were riding 4-wheelers with their families in the Golden Spike area near Corinne, Utah, when the life-changing accident happened.
Katie said the whole family was there and all 18 of them had been riding 4-wheelers throughout the day and everyone had been going up and over a small hill with side-by-sides, 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, and even bicycles. They were about to pack up and leave for the day, when someone pointed out to Chris that his 4-wheeler acted like it was overheating. Chris decided to take the 4-wheeler out to figure out what was causing it to over heat. While he was driving it around he discovered why the 4-wheeler was overheating and started to head back. He decided to go over the small hill everyone else had taken because he hadn’t yet. It was a decision that would change his life.
As Chris went over the hill, the 4-wheeler started coming down nose first into the other side of the hill.
“When he hit the hill, we all just watched the nose go head first into the ground,” Katie said.
The family watched helplessly as Chris flipped over the top of the handle bars and the 4-wheeler rolled over the top of him. Chris hit the ground so hard that his helmet had come off and he rolled into the weeds, Katie said. Chris tried to get up, but immediately fell back to the ground. Katie and Chris’ brother-in-law Todd Miller ran over to help Chris while others called 911. Chris lost consciousness for a bit, but after a while he came to and told them his neck was hurting really bad. Chris, a former EMT, knew he needed more than an ambulance and told the dispatchers on the phone he would need a helicopter because he had broke his neck.
“When I came to I can remember telling them they needed to send a Life Flight,” Chris said.
It took 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive and during that time, Chris stayed in place as much as he could with Miller holding him. The ambulance arrived and the EMT’s quickly went to work stabilizing Chris and putting him in a full body cast to prevent further injury. All of this was being done while a helicopter circled around the area above them looking for a safe place to land.
Once Chris was in the helicopter and placed on pain medication, he was out and doesn’t remember much. Katie said while Chris was being flown to the nearest hospital, which was McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah, she was making the 1 1/2 hour drive there.
After evaluating Chris, doctor’s quickly determined he had broken his C1 and C2 vertebrae, which are the first two vertebrae at the top of the cervical spine.
“It’s amazing he’s not dead or paralyzed,” Katie said.
Katie and Chris were told that 90 percent of the time if someone breaks their C1 and C2 vertebrae, it’s fatal or leads to permanent paralysis. A quick Google search on a C1 and C2 vertebrae break reveals how serious of an injury this break can be and how fortunate Chris is. There are numerous articles on this particular break. According to spinalcord.com, while a C1 and C2 break make up only 2 percent of all cervical spinal injuries, they are considered “the most severe of all spinal cord injuries.”
Chris sustained other injuries as a result of the accident, including three to four broken ribs, a broken sternum, internal bleeding, and three dissections in arteries, including the vertebral and basilar arteries. Chris suffered from minor strokes due to damage his arteries suffered.
The vertebral arteries are in the neck and supply blood to the brain and spine, while the basilar artery is located at the back of the brain and supplies blood to back portion of the brain and central nervous system.
Katie and Chris were glad Chris had survived and didn’t have any paralysis, but were unaware just how long it would take him to recover from his injuries.
The Long Recovery
Chris was in the Intensive Care Unit for the first five days and then remained in the hospital for another three days. Chris was then released from the hospital with a neck brace to heal at home. During this four-week check up however, the doctor quickly discovered, Chris’ C1 and C2 had moved and told Chris he would have to wear a different brace to keep his neck in place until he could have surgery.
“Six to seven months later, he’s still messed up,” Katie said.
Chris has been waiting patiently for his surgery to take place, but due to the artery damage he sustained in the accident, he can’t have it yet. While his arteries are healing, the surgery can’t take place because of the blood thinning medications and Aspirin Chris had to take. Chris has since been taken off the blood thinning medication, but remains on the Aspirin.
The Rasmussen’s were hopeful that Chris’ next appointment would bring them positive news about the surgery, but it was at that appointment where they were told Chris will probably have to wait until June to have the surgery.
It will be a year since the accident occurred before Chris can even have neck surgery to fuse the bones in the neck. And even though he’s been told his range of motion will only be 50 percent, he can’t wait. After the long-awaited surgery, Chris will have a two to three month recovery time.
Due to the extent to Chris’ injuries, he lost his job and is having a hard time finding one he can do with his physical limitations. While Chris can go on walks, he’s been told by doctors he can’t lift more than 10 pounds.
Probably the biggest challenge for me personally is not being able to work. I never thought I’d miss working, but I’ve always been the family’s primary source of income so not being there for that has been a challenge for me. I feel good and I want to go out, but I can’t.~ Chris Rasmussen
Katie joked that she can tell Chris is really bored because he will wash tiny loads of laundry because he can’t lift more than 10 pounds. She’s just happy he’s trying to keep himself busy.
Somehow despite the loss of income and medical bills, the family is managing to pay bills. However, the majority of the biggest medical bills haven’t come in yet.
“Things just seem to work out and we are staying afloat,” Katie said.
From community fundraisers to coworkers helping out, the family has received community support and that has been helping them through a hard situation. For now, Chris will continue to wait for his surgery and is hopeful he will get the go ahead at his next doctor’s appointment. Only time will tell.