Mike Vukovich's Story

mike vukovich.jpg I was home for the summer after completing my first year at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I had just spent one of the greatest years of my life  my life red-shirting for the Saluki Baseball team. I was on a summer baseball team planning on working hard in order to start for the Salukis the following year. My future was full of optimism, excitement and hope. That all changed in the summer of 1999.

My plans for the day that changed my life were very ordinary. Play a double header and then head off to the lake. My friend’s family owned a lake house on Lake Rabun and we would head up there to wake board, tube, and hang out. I played my double header and headed straight up to the lake to see my friends that I had not seen since graduation. There were about 10 of us up there grilling, eating and swimming.  After eating dinner we decided to go tubing at night.

It was actually very light outside due to the full moon so safety was not an issue if you followed the rules. My friend drove his boat and we had spotters to watch the tubers. When someone fell off he would put the boat in neutral and idle over to them. When done correctly it was extremely safe. Unfortunately for me I decided to go tubing the same time that my friend did. That left an inexperienced driver at the helm.

While my friend and I were tubing, water began to splash in my eyes. I have contacts and without them, I am blind! Since I was 2 hours from home and without glasses, I decided to let go and fall off.

When I came out of the water, with my life jacket on, I saw the boat headed full speed right at me! Since my life jacket would not let me swim all the way down, my legs were exposed. I decided to try and swim down and time it right so that when the boat came over me I could kick off the boat. When I kicked off the boat it sent me flipping over and over under the water. When I came up out of the water I began to hope that my legs were just broken. I reached down into the water and grabbed my leg. What I grabbed pricked me! I thought for a second, reached down again and grabbed a hold of it. I realized then that I was holding my bone.


I knew then that I was in big trouble. I felt the blood flow out of my body and I became very weak. My friends idled to me and when I told them that they cut my leg off they did not believe me. Finally, one of the people on the boat dove in and dragged me to the boat. They pulled me in and began to panic. One of my friends used a towel and tied off both of my legs (I truly believe this saved my life). It took two hours for me to reach the hospital. That included a trip on a boat, ambulance, and helicopter. I was awake and remember the whole ordeal. When I was taken from my friends they asked the paramedic on the scene if I would be alright. His response, “I hope you said your good byes because he has a very small chance.”


I lost my left leg through the knee and my abdominal muscle was attached to my right ankle to save that leg. Over the course of a month and I half I went through 10-12 surgeries, thousands of stitches and hundreds of staples. I did all of this with unwavering support from my parents and friends. My mother, Carol, was a rock. She was there every time I woke up. Being a parent now, I have no idea how they made it through it without me seeing them break down. I was determined to make it back to school that semester and I did against the doctor’s orders.


 I am married to my wonderful wife Allyson and I have two wonderful daughters Regan and Avery. My wife, Allyson, is the most amazing person I know. She has to deal with me and my injury every day, but she never complains.

 LyfGard's Propeller Deflector is truly a remarkable idea. I was lucky. Most people are not. I was told I had a 2% chance at surviving, which means that 98% of the people that were in my situation would have died. If this invention can save just one life or prevent just one catastrophic injury, then that alone is worth it. - Mike Vukovich