VanderBor Thankful for Life, Three Years After Accident

Trenton Vanderbor 1
Trenton VanderBor displays his prosthesis on the bleachers of the school stadium. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

Nearly three years after a farm accident took his leg, Trenton VanderBor doesn’t think too much about the struggles it caused. “I don’t think it was a huge setback,” he said. “It’s become very regular to me now, it’s almost as if I have another leg. Normal.”

Nevertheless, the fateful accident forever changed the Vicksburg High School senior’s life in 2016. “If I would have played freshman year football, I wouldn’t be in this situation,” VanderBor said. “But I believe everything happens for a reason.”

He was 15 years old in 2016 and working his first job at a local farm just before his sophomore year one day when his right foot became caught in the drag belt to a conveyer system in a corn silo. “The belt ran on my foot for about two minutes before they were able to shut it off,” VanderBor said. The belt then had to be reversed so he could back himself out of it and be rushed to Bronson Trauma Center.

The next year proved to be brutal. He spent 18 days in a hospital. Trenton underwent five surgeries in the first five days in the intensive care unit before being transferred to the University of Michigan’s children’s hospital for three more surgeries to amputate his foot and remainder of his leg. After that came eight months of physical therapy.

“Learning to walk again was definitely the hardest,” VanderBor said. Other simple tasks like standing in the shower are made much more difficult when one must balance on one leg for eight minutes. “It’s harder than it seems.”

One thing that helped was the outpouring of love and support from his friends, family and the community – especially from the teachers, who gave him a lot of leeway in his assignments given the circumstances. “I’m very thankful for all my friends and family that have supported me through it,” he said.

If anything, the incident was harder on his family. “I think it was hardest for my mom to fathom that her son had just lost his limb,” VanderBor said. “But I think now she’s one of the most accepting people of it, and she knows now that nothing holds me back and I’m able to do anything anyone else can, maybe just not as fast.”

But one thing that couldn’t be changed was the injury’s effect on Trenton’s sports career. Three to four months after the accident he returned to school and supported the basketball team through the whole season at games and at practice. “It stunk a little bit to not be able to go back and play the sport that I loved, but I got a better understanding and a better outlook on life for it,” VanderBor said. “Things aren’t all about sports. I’m just happy to live and be able to see the next day.”

And Trenton’s sports career wasn’t done completely. It just shifted slightly to new things. Trenton threw discus and shotput in 2017 after being inspired to do so by head coaches Jon Kachniewicz and Dave Smith. He took his junior year off from sports before deciding to bowl this past winter.

“Some of my other buddies did it with me,” VanderBor said. “Kind of just for fun, but we took it more seriously than we probably should have. It was always a competition at practices and meets, but it was a good time.”

Through it all, he did keep up with his love for weightlifting; he even has a specialty prosthetic leg for it. It’s one of three; the others are for swimming and everyday walking and running.

As his senior year winds down, VanderBor is looking towards the future. He admits the accident did alter his plans a little. First, he plans to attend KVCC to major in mechanical engineering before transferring to WMU. But his accident also sparked an interest in helping other amputees and he is considering a minor in medical engineering. After that, he may transfer to Eastern Michigan University to work on a master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics.

He already helped a young girl from the eastern side of the state facing an amputation by helping her prepare for the many challenges that were ahead. “No one can relate better than someone who’s been through it already,” he said.

Ultimately, he just hopes his story of overcoming adversity can help others, no matter what their struggles may be.

His advice? “Never give up, there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” VanderBor said. “Always get better and be thankful for what you have, just be thankful to see another day.”

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