Antigo's Zane Waldvogel is using his chilling story of almost losing his life to talk with area families about the dangers of drunk driving. He spoke at the Edison Club in Antigo Tuesday night.
When the phone rings late at night, it can send chills down a parent’s spine. The thought of your child in an accident is a nightmare, and it was for one family, but now it’s a dream.
Life changed in a moment for the Waldvogel family.
“No one ever thinks this is going to happen to them. This isn't possible,” Kim Waldvogel said. “That's because you never let your mind go to that realm. It’s a parent’s worse nightmare. It’s a family's worst nightmare.”
On January 9, 2012, 18-year-old Zane Waldvogel’s life took a drastic turn.
During his Christmas break home from his first semester of college, Zane took a route along Highway 64 near Antigo, Wis.
He said doctors and officers told him he had to be driving more than 100 mph when he failed to negotiate a curve, crashed, and rolled his car. His car stopped, and his body was ejected more than 30 feet.
“I broke my neck on impact,” Zane Waldvogel said. “The back window popped out clean, and I was ejected out the back.”
Some of his injuries included a detached skull, collapsed lung, broken leg, burst bladder and a broken shoulder.
His chance of surviving was next to none, but this wasn’t the first time he struggled with pain.
Waldvogel’s mom, Kim, said her son also suffered from Bulimia.
"It wasn't like I was thinking I'm not in good shape,” Zane Waldvogel said. “It was more like I wasn't in good enough shape.”
He said the disorder led to alcohol problems that leaked into his first semester at college where he was put on suspension for a low GPA.
But it only took until the first Christmas break for his near fatal drunk-driving accident to force him to change.
When every moment counted, the Waldvogels choose to do an almost impossible surgery to save their son.
“There was a traveling surgeon from the east coast in Wausau that happened to be Wausau at the time of the accident," Zane Waldvogel said.
Doctors told Waldvogel that there was one thing of his past that kept him alive when his body flung from his car during the accident: the muscles he built from playing hockey and working out.
"I almost feel like I was carried out by angels,” Zane Waldvogel said.
Angels may have had a hand in keeping Zane alive at that one moment in January, but if we fast forward 17 months, he’s trying to use his miracle to teach others about the impact of drunk driving and bad decisions.
"I see things for what they are,” Zane Waldvogel said. “The important things matter to me now.”
Tuesday's event was also a fundraiser for EMT training in Antigo. First responders played a crucial role in Zane's survival.
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