Varsity Kansas

Laubhan's will to return is inspirational

Most people don't remember taking their first steps, nor can they comprehend the accomplishment.

Christian Laubhan learned to walk again at the age of 9. He definitely understood how big those steps were, and looking back he's glad he pushed himself to take them.

"I remember when I first got stood up on my feet and they had a little lasso around my waist to make sure I wouldn't fall over," Laubhan said. "I stood up and I got light-headed. I felt like I was going to faint so I had to sit back down really quick. After that I got back up, and it just kept progressing week-by-week and day-by-day."

Laubhan was on the way to his first soccer practice with a family friend when an impaired driver ran a red light. The crash killed two people and put four in the hospital. Both of Laubhan's femurs were broken.

Flash forward to present day. After years of therapy, conditioning, praying and hard work, there are few signs indicating what Laubhan has been through.

The former Kapaun Mount Carmel first baseman earned a baseball scholarship to Washburn University and second-team All-City League honors after his senior season.

He epitomizes what a collegiate power hitter should look like. He has a strong core and massive forearms. Anyone can tell he's a workout fiend, keeping his lower half as fit as his upper body. Laubhan is quick on his feet and has enough lateral movement to play collegiate baseball, but there are a few indications of abnormality.

There are three circular scars on each leg, running along the outer side of the thighs. It's where half-inch rods were inserted in his legs attached to metal fixators to make sure his legs grew straight. Laubhan said he still does stretching exercises to keep up his below-average flexibility both legs.

He remembers how skinny and weak his legs were after spending seven months in a wheelchair. He remembers his motivation for wanting to walk again.

"Jason Bina, his rehab therapist, wanted him to set a goal his first day of rehab," his father, Jim Laubhan, said. "He wanted to pitch and — "

"Play baseball," Christian interrupted.

Laubhan got out of his wheelchair on Feb. 14, 2001. He was playing baseball again in 2002. He couldn't really run the bases. His family describes it as more of a plod — not quite up to the speed of a jog. Christian could hit, though — the accident hadn't taken that away from him.

"It was tough because you just didn't ever know if he'd ever be the same. It was always in the back of my mind," said his mother, Melanie. "I didn't want to let him out of my sight. I didn't want to let him go do things without me. I think it's taken him 10 years with all of that rehab, personal training and dedication to finally get back to where he might have been at this age."

His parents say Christian didn't complain about rehabilitation. He kept his focus on getting back to the baseball diamond, and that was enough for him. Now he plans to study kinesiology at Washburn and become a physical therapist. He wants to serve as motivation for kids that suffer through similar situations.

I may not remember my first steps, but I will remember the look on Melanie Laubhan's face as she looked through the photo album containing pictures of her son in the hospital. It was as if she flashed back to moments she wondered if he'd ever be normal again. I sure will remember the look Jim Laubhan's face as he brought out the papers detailing the Washburn scholarship offer. The sense of pride was undeniable.