FOND DU LAC (AP) - Kellan Henning was called back from the brink of death for a reason.
Maybe it was to walk across the stage this weekend and receive his diploma from the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac.
Or maybe it was for his dog Scout, the pal who was forever on his mind as his body battled back from the horrific car accident that sent him and his bicycle flying through the air in the summer of 2007, between his junior and senior years of high school.
His father Glenn Henning says his son died and had to be revived multiple times. After one attempt, before paramedics arrived, someone had pulled a cover over the injured teen's head.
But as everyone who knows him can attest, Kellan isn't the kind of kid who gives up.
"He is a medical miracle and serves as a terrific example of where science stops and philosophy begins. He did things, and continues to do things that science can't explain," said one of his professors, Eric Boos.
The extent of Kellan's injuries that day were so severe only one extremity - his right arm - wasn't broken.
"I was trying to get in shape and doing a good job of it riding my bike from Eldorado to Rosendale on the Ice Age Trail," Kellan recalls of that summer.
A wind turbine had slid off a semi trailer that failed to make a turn and traffic was held up in both directions on Highway 26 in the Village of Rosendale.
"He was sitting there waiting with his bike and then someone waved him across and he didn't see the oncoming traffic," Glenn said.
Flight For Life landed in the parking lot of Rosendale Primary School and transported Kellan to Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. He flat-lined several times during the helicopter ride.
"At the hospital they asked us to come in and identify him and they would only show us the right side of his face. We said 'This is our son' and they just went from there," Glenn said.
Among multiple broken bones Kellan had a hematoma the size of a football running from his left knee to his groin. His pelvis was shattered in three places and his left arm was broken off above the elbow. There was a skull fracture from ear to ear, known as a shearing effect, and kidney damage and both lungs were filled with blood.
"For three days they told us not to leave the hospital because he was going to die. One doctor told us he was a body without a brain. Fortunately no one told Kellan that," Glenn said.
The then 16-year-old remained in a coma for 24 days. Day and night, friends and family held vigil outside his room in the critical care unit - including his school mates from Laconia High School.
"My wife and I did not allow anyone to go in Kellan's room and start crying. No one was allowed to feel bad in there," Glenn said.
Finally on Aug. 13, Wanda's birthday, Kellan woke up, and to everyone's amazement, he was lucid.
"When I was in coma it was really frustrating. It comes back to me in waves but I remember hearing my mom and dad and what was going on but I couldn't see or talk to them," Kellan said.
Because his therapy was so medically complex, he was transferred to Children's Hospital in Milwaukee where the painful process of rehabilitation began.
"Here was this kid with a horrific brain injury and he was playing chess on the computer. He baffled everyone," Wanda said.
Kellan finally returned home on Sept. 19, two months after the accident. At first he had a tutor at home and then returned to school in a wheelchair.
"It was important to me to graduate with my class. I was willing to do anything to be in school and with my friends," Kellan said.
Prior to the accident he had earned a black belt in karate and says that training was his source of determination. He also believes his love for Scout, a springer spaniel, helped him will himself out of the coma.
"In karate we had to recite a mantra 'My Strong Will,' and I think that will made me hard, like a turtle's shell," Kellan says.
He's the first person to attend college in his entire extended family and has made a name for himself on the UW-Fond du Lac campus because of his zest for life, said Student Services Coordinator Maggie Gellings.
"Kellan has not had it easy at college but what really strikes me is his attitude. He greets life with passion. He wants to be here and it shows," she said.
Boos said since the accident Kellan has developed an ability to connect with animals.
"It is as though his mind has opened a channel to the 'animal world' that others lack. Kellan, like animals, has developed a super-sensibility. He feels the world around him in ways that other humans cannot but in ways that animals can," Boos said.
Life is still hard for Kellan, now age 21. He's had 19 surgeries to date and his bones ache in bad weather. He has arthritis and sometimes it hurts to stand or to sit. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
"I have a set of goals. I want to be famous. I would like to travel to Japan, and I want to climb a mountain for sure - it doesn't have to be Everest," Kellan said.
His mother said he's already climbed one
mountain and his father says he's always taught his son there are two types of people in life: those who can and those who really don't want to.
"We taught him the words of Winston Churchill: Never to give up - never surrender. And Kellan did just that," Glenn said.
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