BURLINGTON - After 79 days in the hospital, including 30 days in a coma, Ridin' High Skate Shop owner John Van Hazinga is back at work, says he's "getting stronger and stronger every day" and has every intention of returning to his life's passion - longboard riding.
Van Hazinga, 29, was seriously injured July 12 while leading a group of skateboarders down Route 108 near Smugglers' Notch during a weekly group ride known as "Thrashin' Thursdays." He was trying out a new skateboard specifically designed for high-speed downhill racing when he wrecked, suffering a broken nose, broken cheek bone and serious head trauma. Van Hazinga, who doesn't remember the accident, was wearing a helmet, gloves and knee and elbow pads at the time.
For weeks after the accident, it was unclear what kind of long-term or permanent injuries Van Hazinga would suffer - his sister reported on her blog in July that a doctor had described his brain as "hamburgered." However, Van Hazinga now tells Seven Days that he's progressed from partial paralysis on his right side to walking unassisted and without a cane. He was released from the hospital on September 28.
This summer's accident wasn't Van Hazinga's first on a skateboard. At age 12, he was hit by a car going 40 miles per hour as he skated out of his driveway. He broke his femur, spent 49 days in traction and had to learn how to walk again.
This time, Van Hazinga is also undergoing physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy three days per week; doctors have warned him not to set foot on a skateboard for at least a year. Van Hazinga, who's known among his friends and local skaters as "Big John," also lost about 50 pounds in the hospital, and says he plans to lose 30 more. In that effort, he's adopted a new nickname for himself: "Medium John."
VIDEO: Trashin' Thursday at Ridin' High