He Lost His Leg On the Football Field - But Can't Wait to Get Back
Inspirational stories about individuals overcoming the loss of a limb abound. But Chris Vier may very well break new ground.
The 46-year-old Florence resident, who had his right leg amputated below the knee, hopes a new prosthetic leg will enable him to get back to the thing he loves doing: officiating high school football games.
“There’s no place on Friday night that I’d rather be than out on the football field,” said the longtime official.
Vier, a member of the Northern Kentucky Officials Association, has been one of the men in stripes for more than 100 varsity football games. The injury that led to the amputation took place in June 2013, at the very place he wants to return – the football field.
Vier was head linesman on an officiating crew that volunteered for the Northern Kentucky Football Coaches Association senior all-star game. He remembers the play when it happened. After a tight end caught a short pass in the flat, a linebacker wrapped his arms around the receiver and was trying to make the tackle.
“They start coming at me and I start backpedaling,” Vier recalled. “We’re getting to the players box (on the sideline) and I’m running out of room, so I planted (my right foot) and I was going to spin. When I planted, I had my leg out straight and they came through and took me down.”
An orthopedic surgeon used screws to mend the broken bone in his lower right leg. Two months later, an X-ray showed something was wrong with two of the screws and Vier had to go back into surgery. That’s when the doctor discovered an infection in the bone known as osteomyelitis.
Rather than go through multiple surgical treatments to try to restore the infected bone, Vier chose the doctor’s other alternative — amputation.
“My doctor said it would take about a year or year and a half of surgeries where they would take bone grafts and try to grow the bone back a little bit at a time,” he said. “He told me if it worked my ankle would be fused to my leg and I would walk with a cane the rest of my life. And that’s if it worked. If it didn’t work, then I would have to have it amputated.”
Vier, who received his first prosthetic leg last December, has returned to work as a sales representative for a food service company. His wife, Mimi, and their four children are glad to have the worst part of the ordeal behind them.
“When I first I got home from the hospital,” Vier said, “my wife said I checked out for a couple days. I didn’t leave the room or anything. After a couple days, she finally said, ‘Let’s go, you’re done. You’ve got four kids. Get up, let’s go, you’re done.’ And I’ve tried to look forward ever since.”
With a new prosthetic leg, Chris Vier hopes his increased mobility will enable him to keep up with the action on the high school football field. (Photo provided)
A lot of people involved with Northern Kentucky high school football have shown their support for Vier and his family. The officials association donated the money he needed to install a left-footed gas pedal in his sports utility vehicle. He also received a donation from the football coaches association, and the players on two high school teams – Covington Catholic and Highlands – had fundraising projects for him.
“Highlands (players) went out and did yard work and raised $4,000,” Vier said. “I didn’t even find out about that until I saw it on Facebook.”
Vier doesn’t want the loss of his leg to put limitations on how he spends the rest of his life. Last May, he walked in a 3-mile race, and he recently renewed his official’s license for the upcoming basketball season.
“Running up and down a basketball court is not so bad and it’s something I think I can physically do,” Vier said. “But I’d really like to get back on the football field. I love doing basketball, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something about football on a Friday night.”
Vier has already talked with Matt Young, training supervisor for the Northern Kentucky Officials Association, about returning for the 2015 season.
“He said, ‘As long as the doctors release you we’ll start you off slow and figure it out from there,’” Vier said.
But he won’t press the issue if he doesn’t think he can handle the demands of being a varsity football official.
“It’s either all or nothing,” Vier said. “If I can’t do it physically, I don’t want to put anybody else in jeopardy, or myself for that matter.”
Terry Boehmker is a correspondent at KY Forward, where this story first appeared, and is a former sportswriter/editor for The Kentucky Post. Reprinted with permission.