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Santa Clarita amputee gears up for 620-mile ride

Despite a near-fatal accident last year, Canyon Country man rides on

Posted: May 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Kevin Korenthal stands in his garage with a couple of his bikes. Korenthal, an amputee, was hit by a car while biking, but just months later is training for a 620-mile bike race to raise money for challenged athletes. Photo by Dan Watson.

 

“Do you want to see some of my legs?” asked Kevin D. Korenthal, a smile on his face.

He turned from the garage and entered his Canyon Country home, returning a minute late with several prosthetics in tow.
One looked like a plastic foot, another was built especially for him to ride a bike.

“This is my running leg,” he said, gesturing to a prosthetic that was attached to the sole of a shoe, from a Nike he said.
Korenthal is an amputee. Most of his leg below his left knee was removed in 2001.

Little did he know that an even larger challenge loomed just around the corner, when a vehicle accident on Sand Canyon Road would leave him broken, in a medically induced coma, with some wondering if he would ever be able to walk again.

But now, a little more than four months after that accident, Korenthal is gearing up for the longest bike ride of his life, a seven-day, 620-mile ride from San Francisco to San Diego.

But what drives Korenthal, who has suffered two traumatic injuries in his lifetime, to keep getting back in the saddle of his bicycle?

“I push myself harder than the pain does,” he said. “It makes sense to me.”

Accident
Korenthal, an avid biker, was riding on Sand Canyon Road Dec. 22 when a car driven by a teenager drifted over the double-yellow line around a particularly sharp curve and smashed into him head-on.

The accident left Korenthal hospitalized with a litany of injuries. Korenthal recalled hearing hospital officials rattle off all the bones that had been broken in the incident.

Broken right wrist. Broken right fibula. Broken right scapula. A broken back. Two broken vertebrae in his neck. Broken left femur.

Korenthal was left hospitalized during Christmas, was in a drug-induced coma for 20 days and in the hospital for more than a month.

During that time his wife, Christine, told The Signal doctors were worried her husband might not have his full range of mobility back after the accident.

Korenthal said he could not lift his arm for two weeks after being discharged from the hospital. Even now, he can’t move quite as well as he used to.

“There are times, like when you reach to scratch your back, that you realize it’s not as easy as it used to be,” he said.

But despite the injuries, Korenthal considers himself a blessed man.

“One small move could have paralyzed me,” Korenthal said of the accident. “I could’ve lost a knee.”

“And that would have been devastating for me.”

Recovery
After being released from the hospital, Korenthal initially found himself confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk even on crutches.

It’s a period that both he and his wife can smile about in hindsight.

“When he first got home in the wheelchair, he was so bad at it,” said Christine Korenthal, gesturing at various scuffmarks on the walls of their home. “I told him we’re not repainting until he was out of that thing.”

Luckily for him, and his walls, he was out of the wheelchair fairly quickly, then up and walking about soon after that.

It’s all part of what he hopes to be a full recovery.

Part of that recovery, he said, was the outpouring of support from the community.

“I have a hard time just digesting that much charity, that’s just incredible,” he said, lightly shaking his head. “And the only way to pay them back is to just live as good a life as I possibly can.”

Amputation
Korenthal suffered the injury that eventually took his leg in a vehicle accident in 1991, just before his graduation from Canyon High School.

“That was a real downer,” he said, leaning against one of his bike racks. “That led to a couple of lost years for me.”

For the next decade, the nerves in Korenthal’s leg slowly became more and more damaged until eventually it became necessary to amputate the leg just below the knee.

The amputation led to a new chapter in his life, both physically and personally, Korenthal said. Korenthal said he came out of that period as a better man, more rooted in his faith and more devoted to his family.

“Sometimes in life people only recognize the bad swings, they never really notice the good swings,” Korenthal said. “During this period of my life I learned a lot of lessons and I learned them well.”

Future
But now as his recovery progresses, Korenthal is turning his sights to the Million Dollar Challenge, a 620-mile staged bike race that takes 100 riders down the California coastline from San Francisco to San Diego.

Korenthal said he originally signed up for the race before the crash in December, but didn’t learn he had been accepted as a participant until after.

“My first thought was, ‘No, are you crazy?’” Korenthal said. “But after a while I thought, what the heck, let’s give it a try.”

This involves getting up to what Korenthal called “century strength,” where he is able to ride 100 miles in one sitting.

The race takes place from Oct. 12 to Oct. 18 and is sponsored by Dodge and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization Korenthal has volunteered with for years.

Aside from the Million Dollar Challenge, Korenthal said he also plans on pursuing a goal he was training for prior to the crash: completing a triathlon.

“I had friends who kept telling me, ‘Korenthal, you’ve got to do a triathlon if you want to be a real athlete,’” he said with a laugh. “Eventually it got to me.”

He said he plans on starting to run again once he gets a little healthier and will pull on his previous swimming experience to accomplish his goal.

“I’ve got to be the best I can be,” Korenthal said. “There’s no other option.”

 

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