VT cadet looks to future after miraculous recovery

elmers fall (1 of 2)
Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 28 – No entry: Elmer fell from the upper area of the cascade falls into the freezing water below. Photo: Zack Perhach

by Zack Perhach–

The last thing Christian Elmer, a Virginia Tech student and Cadet, remembers before falling off the top of the Cascades waterfall in Giles County Virginia, was his friend lunging to grab him. The next thing he remembers was being pulled out of the water, laying on his back waiting for the slick water rescue team to come to help him.

That team would arrive three hours later and would evacuate Elmer by helicopter to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The doctors would tell him his injuries: his right hip, both elbows, and his neck had broken during the 69-foot fall.

“I thought I lost my scholarship, my job in the army, and then I thought I might not be able to walk again,” said Elmer.

The recovery process for Elmer included multiple surgeries and months of physical therapy. Friends and family raised thousands of dollars to cover his medical expenses. His recovery progressed quickly, and within four months Elmer had begun lifting weights in the gym.

To get cleared for service, Elmer had to compile a medical report from all 12 doctors he saw during his recovery. He sent the 1,300-page document to the Army Surgeon General. Within the month he submitted it, Elmer had received the verdict.

“I got the email so fast I thought ‘there’s no way I got approved if they’re replying this fast,’” said Elmer, “but my medical determination was approved, so I’m good to serve.”


The Army clearly defines the medical conditions that can limit or disqualify a person from service. Elmer’s main concerns were his elbows and hips, both of which the army has specific ranges of motion that are deemed acceptable.

With his medical determination now cleared, Elmer’s eyes are set on his future in the Army. Just this month, he received his assignment as an explosive ordnance disposal or EOD technician. A job he had a 5-7 percent chance of receiving. Elmer had to go through multiple interviews to join the EOD team, and he’s excited to join a small community in the Army.

“I had to have a good attitude from the start and I knew that,” said Elmer, “I truly believe that your mind and your body are so connected that if you have a bad attitude, you won’t heal as fast or as well as you could.”

Elmer is set to graduate from Virginia Tech in December. The New Jersey native will then be working in Richmond as an EOD technician in the summer.

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