Hit by 2 cars and nearly killed, RIT student defies odds to make a new life

On February 13, 2016, Christopher Clemens was hit by two cars and left with a traumatic brain injury. Now he's on track to graduate. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Chris Clemens doesn't remember much about the night before Valentine's Day in 2016.

"I was at a friend's house. We were just hanging out and I decided that I didn't want to wait for the ride that was going to come and drive me back to campus, so I end up walking back to campus. I'm not really paying attention, walking in the middle of the road," Clemens said.

Not far from the campus of Rochester Institute Of Technology, near Bailey Road and John Street, Clemens was hit by one car.

Moments later, a second car ran over him.

Miraculously, Clemens survived, but his battle had just begun. Clemens had six broken ribs. A bar held his hips together because of the damage to his pelvis, and he had severe spine damage and a severe brain injury.

"Having a Diffuse axonal injury means that typical person that has that will have a 10 percent chance to wake up - and if they do wake up, they will be traumatically impaired for the rest of their life," said Clemens.

Two weeks after the accident, Clemens woke up from his medically-induced coma.

He would spend the next month in rehab at Golisano Restorative Neurology and Rehabilitation Center at Unity Hospital before going back home to Maine.

"The beginning of our treatment was starting with the basics," Unity Hospital Physical Therapist Mary Anne Tulyk said. "Teaching him how to move around bed safely."

Chris had to learn to eat, walk and speak again; but the pace he hit benchmarks was astounding.

"It's one of the exceptional recoveries I've witnessed," Unity Hospital Speech Language Pathologist Laura Mallia-Nather said.

While back home, Clemens took a few classes online until he was able to return to RIT and take on a bigger course load.

Chris says he's always been one to take on challenges.

"Before, it was always the next goal. I'd have a goal and reach it and say, what's the next goal?" said Clemens.

But he discovered something else along the way. Clemens connected with a campus ministry group at RIT.

"I was super skeptical of any religious group. I was not into it. Enough events happened where I kept going…and it turned out to have a community of people I loved," said Clemens.

He had a community of support that included his hospital staff. Two years later, Clemens is a full time student. He's on track to graduate in one year. He's now pursuing a degree in business management.

While he doesn't remember his traumatic accident, he does remember those who helped him on his road to recovery and fulfillment.

"I care about life in a different way," Clemens said.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off