It was a true joy hearing Mike Chongris’ voice on speaker phone while he was returning from a doctor’s appointment with his brother Jim.
Anyone who was present at South Georgia Motorsports Park, Nov. 22, and watched Chongris violently crash his turbo funny bike into the retaining wall, head on, at over 190 mph, surely questioned if we would ever hear his voice again. The tremendous impact left Chongris unresponsive for several moments as first responders worked to save his life.
Initially the outlook was very grim. Chongris would not wake from his coma.
Then the miracle happened. Chongris opened his eyes. After spending four weeks in the ICU, he would spend the next month in rehabilitation centers before finally returning home to Mentor, Ohio at the end of January.
“It’s so nice to be back with my family,” Chongris said. “I owe a lot of things to a lot of people and I don’t know quite know what to do to repay them. I just really want to say thank you.”
The motorcycle community rallied around Chongris, sending countless prayers, well wishes and contributed to a GoFundMe for medical expenses that eclipsed $50,000.
“It’s more than I could have ever asked for,” Chongris said.
Given his chances of surviving such a devastating accident, it’s truly amazing how well Chongris has recovered. Aside from short term memory loss, an injured knee and a throat complication, Chongris has experienced a rapid recovery.
Even his eyesight has returned. Chongris’ eye socket was a major area of concern after the extreme impact it sustained.
“His vision is very good,” Jim Chongris reported after the most recent doctor’s visit. “His hand has healed up nicely too.”
Chongirs knows what happened to him that day but can’t recall the accident and doesn’t remember much of anything from that weekend or the week before.
But when it comes to long term memory, Jim says his brother can recall more than he can.
When asked about the first time he traveled to an IDBL race at Maryland International Raceway, after taking me up on my invite about four years ago, I asked, “Did you win or runner-up?”
“I almost won it,” Chongris said. “Kenny Cornell got me in the final.”
Clearly the long term memory is still there.
Chongirs’ accident is still under investigation. Finding out exactly what went wrong could save lives in the future.
The family says the next step is getting the ECU to FuelTech to have the on-board data analyzed.
In the meantime Chongris is due for another surgery. After several weeks of utilizing a breathing tube, or trach, an air passage closed a bit upon removal, causing Chongris some wheezing. Doctors are confident they will be able to correct the issue.
Chongris doesn’t mind having another surgery. Boldly, he has maintained a positive attitude throughout his recovery. Perhaps using what he loves most as motivation is his secret weapon.
“As long as I can get back on a drag bike, I’ll do whatever I have to,” Chongris said.
Clearly the love of two wheels and the 1320 has not diminished.
Some will question how Chongris could possibly be thinking about racing again after such a horrific, near-death accident. Sometimes it’s the passion and positive thoughts that help pull a man through his darkest days, and Chongris’ family, made up of diehard racers, understands that fully.
Jim says getting Mike back on a bike at some point is a real possibility but would be done with extreme caution.
“Whatever we do, we would start very slow,” Jim said. “There is no telling how he would react after all that he has been through.”
And above all, whether he’s on a motorcycle or not, expect to see Chongris at a race this season.
That itself is one of the greatest pieces of news of the year.
It’s a stunning turnaround from watching the life-flight helicopter ascend from South Georgia Motorsport Pak on Nov. 22.
Now it’s Chongris who is ascending. Bravo Mike.