My name is Craig Vogtsberger. In 2001, my National Guard Unit received orders to deploy for a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia. During our training for deployment, I stepped between two Humvees and the vehicles collided. My body was crushed. I was in and out of consciousness, while I was rushed to a hospital where physicians started treating my injuries.
I have a few memories of the accident. I remember the driver was backing up and parked the Humvee in front of another one. I walked between the Humvees to get the blocks for the tires. Next, I remember looking at one Humvee sitting on top of the hood of the other, I saw a couple soldiers looking at me. I realized at that time, I was in between the two Humvees as one sat partially on top of the other. I watched the driver moving around in the drivers seat, as he tried to figure out what happened. It took a while for the driver to pull the Humvee forward. When he pulled forward, I was released from between the two Humvees and I fell forward onto the ground.
I suffered massive trauma to my entire body. Among my injuries: a mild traumatic brain injury; spinal trauma (to all three sections); an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI); dysautonomia, which is an insufficiency of the nervous system; paralysis in the left leg and left shoulder; visual impairment; partial hearing loss, and numerous other injuries and disabilities. My prognosis was spending the rest of my life sitting in a chair taking pain killers and other medications.
I fought my prognosis mentally and physically. I tried to get back to my life and heal, but my body was too far damaged. I was getting worse as I tried to ignore my injuries and disabilities, and continue life as I had lived it before. Mentally, as I tried to continue and failed at normalcy, things started to go downhill. I was depressed and angry, I hit a new low. As much as I tried to remain positive about life and the long-term outlook, I ended up losing all hope.
My injuries were so complex that my doctors had a hard time diagnosing what exactly was wrong. One of the hardest things was knowing that my body and mind weren’t working correctly or as a unit, but the doctors were not able to find what was causing all of it. They prescribed me pain killers to treat my constant pain and continued to tell me I would spend the rest of my life sitting in a chair; their opinion was that there was not much hope of living an active life. I was foggy with pain medication and barely able to move. I couldn’t see the next minute or hour, never mind looking forward to any kind of future.
For six years after the accident this was my life. I was living in Michigan at the time and saw an advertisement for a local triathlon, which I decided to go and watch. I began riding in the sixth grade when my father bought me a 10-speed bike. I would ride up to 60 miles on weekends in bike tours with him, which eventually paved the way to running, duathlons, triathlons, time trials, and road racing. Watching that triathlon in Michigan, I remembered the freedom I felt when I used to compete in college. I was reminded of that freedom when the athletes swam, exited the water, ran up to transition, threw their bike shoes and helmet on, and headed out on the course. Watching that race was all it took. I got back into my car and headed home and made the decision that day to get my freedom back. I stopped my medication immediately, and all of them at once, finally found a trainer that would work with my disabilities, and started working on getting life back.
In 2008, as some of my injuries and diagnosis still loomed and eluded physicians, I was finally diagnosed with foot drop in my left leg. It was a relief to know what had been going on for the last seven years as I was having trouble walking and problems with my back, hips, and legs.
I was given a basic Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) at my first appointment with an orthotist. After which, the doctor questioned what I would be doing with it. After explaining my desire to run and cycle, the orthotist smiled and asked me to wait a minute. He came back with an Allard BlueROCKER and let me try it. It was perfect! I ran down the hallway of the office and I haven’t stopped since.
Since getting my BlueROCKER in 2009, I have gone on to accomplish numerous feats that weren’t fathomable even before my accident. In 2014, I took part in an expedition to Mt. Whitney with Soldiers to Summits and No Barriers. Our team of Disabled Veterans summited Mt. Whitney in the dark and sat on top and watched the sun rise. I have raced in XTERRA off-road triathlons for seven years, in the Physically Challenged Division, winning the USA Championship four times and the Regional Championship seven times. I also competed on the Paratriathlon Team and won the National Championship in 2010. I also raced on the Para-cycling team and while on these teams, I have competed in numerous regional, national, and world championships, 5 and 10K races, snowshoe races, lift weights and in 2014, competed in the CrossFit Games.
There is nothing that I haven’t been able to do with my BlueROCKER. It has given me the freedom and confidence to move through life and take on any task or goal that challenges and interests me.