A family's 4th of July celebrations took a turn for the worst when a young man nearly drowned. Family members were able to save him in time, but there's a long road to recovery for Army National Guardsman Chris Schenk.
Schenk served two tours overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's what happened close to home that may truly change his life.
The Schenk family had been parked out on the Torch Lake sandbar, getting ready to watch the 4th of July fireworks show when Chris decided to go for a swim. His mother saw him motionless at the bottom of the lake a couple minutes later, but wasnâ??t sure if something was wrong.
Chrisâ??s dad says at first he thought his son was just trying to hold his breath, but the situation went from a joke to terrifying in an instant.
â??Itâ??s not like in the movies where they bounce back, cough up the water and they're okay,â?? said Brian Schenk, Chris' father.
Brian Schenk jumped into the waist-deep water to pull out his 29 year old son.
â??It was really hard to be blessed enough to save him from drowning and then turn around and find out that he's got a neck injury that's right up at the top vertebrae: C1," the elder Schenk said.
When Chris dove into the lake, he hit his head, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak.
Doctors say the damage appears permanent. But family members say, if there's any way to improve and beat the odds, Chris will find it.
â??Heâ??s the kind of person that if the hospital told him to sit still for six weeks, he'd do it," Schenk said. "He follows doctorâ??s orders like sergeantâ??s orders."
Family members have been by Chris' side all hours of the day, with people in the waiting room and sleeping by his side in the Intensive Care Unit.
â??He was one of the reasons I knew I could join the military," said Elizabeth Stayman, Schenk's cousin. "I went with Air Force, which is a little bit different of a path, but just wanting to serve his country... I wanted to do the same.â??
Chris's father wants that inspiration to spread. â??There's no question about his honorâ?| So what we're hoping to get is a sense of a worldwide family that realizes our soldiers are like that.â??
They're hoping to raise money to help with medical bills and transportation for treatment. They also want to get a van with handicap accessibility.
Schenk will remain in the ICU for at least another week before heading to the University of Michigan for rehabilitation and maximizing abilities. The family is hoping he'll be able to regain communication skills.
They say Chris was in great condition before the accident, so they hope heâ??ll be a prime candidate for some trial treatments like cell regeneration.
Schenk is a father-to-be. His girlfriend is pregnant with his son. She is due in November.