Chris Rains grew up the way that many people from his small town in South Carolina do – a sweet, simple country life with strong family values and rich food. And like many of them, too, he lived a fairly average life. He made his wages working at a grocery store, challenged by social anxiety and the health impact of obesity, but not particularly unhappy with life. Little did he expect for life to be shaken up the way that it did. He certainly did not expect to find life’s greatest adventure through an unfathomable loss.
The first time that Chris came in contact with the Beautifully Flawed Foundation, he still had all of his limbs and wasn’t exactly planning on giving any up. Having watched Soul Surfer in 2013 and inspired by the life of Bethany Hamilton, the story of resiliency resonated with Chris who had endured bullying as a child and a persistent struggle with body weight.
“At some point, I heard about Sarah Hill and learned that she was a youth pastor in Hawaii,” says Chris. “I realized that I might be able to talk about some of my challenges with her that I didn’t want to talk about with someone that I knew. I remember thinking that it would be convenient that I would never meet her.”
Of course, it’s ironically laughable now, knowing that it was Chris who offered a toast as an attendee at the Beautifully Flawed and Forge Retreat banquet dinner in respect to Sarah. The guy who doesn’t like to feel vulnerable without his prosthetic took it off to surf waves in Del Mar with Bethany.
The once 260-lb guy who now has a six-pack. The guy who was once scared of girls who now is the one most inspired by them. The grocer who turned into a mountain climber.
A “God thing,” Chris calls it.
So what happened in between?
Not long after he had seen Soul Surfer, Chris upgraded to a job at a metal company as a warehouse employee. En route for a customer delivery after a particularly long day, his memory remains fuzzy except to remember looking up at an 18-wheeler at a dead stop. A moment later, his legs were buried beneath the dash of his cabover pickup.
“The thing I was worried about losing was my job,” said Chris. Despite a lot of pressure on his lower body, Chris told a bystander that he thought he would be able to walk once the wreckage could be removed and it wasn’t until he was headed to the emergency room that Chris realized that he might actually lose his legs.
Chris would end up going through four surgeries to lose part of his right leg. He would need to learn to adapt for a brace for his left leg due to torn ligaments in his knee and a femur that shattered through the hip. And he also found out that the only reason he hadn’t bled out within moments of the accident was because the wreckage had settled in just the right position to pinch off his main artery of a leg that had been almost entirely severed, save for some flesh on the backside of his leg. A God thing.
Chris talks with a fairly positive and factual tone about his accident because it wasn’t until the aftermath and time of recovery that he faced his greatest challenges yet.
“It took a huge mental toll on me when people stopped coming around as much anymore,” says Chris. “I had a poor brace and prosthetic so that I became basically immobile for two years. The highlight of my day would be to run errands with my mom when she got off of work.”
A New Adventure
Battling depression and the recurrent theme of weight gain, Chris reached a desperate point. Until this point, Chris had never stepped into a gym – legs or not. It’s really not the culture of South Carolina, nor did Chris grow up playing any sports. But motivated out of his depression with new gear for his legs, he decided to give it a shot.
“I just knew I had to do something,” he remembers.
Today, Chris works part time at the YMCA as a Wellness Associate, teaching other people how to exercise. He’s collectively lost at least 80 lbs from his heaviest weight and has played sled hockey and hand cycling. He has a special prosthetic foot for rock climbing and most recently, made it to nearly 16,000ft of Cotopaxi. He golfed and surfed with us in Del Mar. Chris is living more adventurously now than he ever did with two legs. A God thing.
A key point that Chris recalls from the day of the accident was the North American Rescue CAT tourniquet used to save his life. And he remembered it five years later when he was contacted about a job offer from the same company. Along with his job at the YMCA today, Chris now travels to military bases around the nation to train service people in first aid scenarios. You know, a God thing.
“My accident taught me to be thankful for life and the opportunities that God has given me,” says Chris. “I’ve had a lot of crazy opportunities pop up that I would have never otherwise had. That’s the path that I’ve been trying to live on and it’s led to some really neat things.”– Chris
The paths that take shape in our lives are quite often not as we would expect – it certainly wasn’t for Chris. It doesn’t change or diminish the gravity of great loss to know that the unexpected pain of life can lead us to new heights and perspective on life. These are the stories fueled by this organization and fueled by our donor support. These are the “God thing” stories that inspire us and we pray that they inspire you, too.