Tricia and Dave Fuglestad were in the backyard of their Hoffman Estates home a few weeks ago basking in their summer break from teaching, when Dave remarked they should enjoy life because at any time things could change.
A few days later, they found out how right he was.
Dave Fuglestad, a popular science teacher at Buffalo Grove High School, was critically injured in a motorcycle accident Aug. 2 in Elgin and had to be airlifted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a spinal cord injury.
Following a surgery to stabilize his spine, doctors told the family there is only a 5 percent chance he will regain use of his legs.
He was wearing a helmet and suffered no brain injury, said Tricia, a well-known art teacher at Dryden Elementary School in Arlington Heights. He still has use of his arms.
The driver of the car that hit Dave has been cited, according to the Elgin Police Department.
Dave has been discharged from the hospital and is beginning a long recovery at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
"He is staying positive. He immediately started thinking, 'How do I make this work?'" Tricia said. "Dave is the kind of person who always lives his life being grateful for the things he has."
"It's just hard-wired into him to be positive and make the best of every situation. This isn't going to be easy at all, but he already has his mind set on long-term goals."
One of those goals is to get back into the classroom.
"He is absolutely dedicated to coming back and being a teacher, and we are all very confident that he will be able to do that," said Chris Marks, math and science division head at Buffalo Grove High School. "We have a substitute for his classes, not a replacement."
A fundraising site -- www.crowdrise.com/FundFugie/fundraiser/sindismith1 -- has been set up by two science teachers at Buffalo Grove High School to help pay Fuglestad's medical and living expenses.
Last Friday Tricia didn't even know about the site, which has raised more than $15,000 toward a goal of $100,000. The money will help pay for modifications to their home and to buy a specially equipped vehicle and wheelchair.
"We hope to help Dave recover as much of his independence as possible," the site reads.
"One of the biggest indicators of what kind of character Dave has is how many people are reaching out when they hear what's happened," Marks said.
Since the accident Tricia said she has been overwhelmed with emails and messages from Dave's friends, co-workers and students.
"I don't think he fully understood his impact on others," she said. "It's hard for him to be on the receiving side of help. He is always the first to go and help someone else."
The accident was a shock to friends and family. Dave, 52, grew up near Palatine High School and has been riding motorcycles and dirt bikes in the area since he was 15 years old and never had an accident.
Dave and Tricia, who have been married for 15 years, took a motorcycle trip around Lake Michigan to celebrate their 10th anniversary.
His friends and family say they have no doubt Fugelstad will successfully get back to his classroom.
"He brings his positive energy to everyone he is with," Marks said. "If anyone can come back from this, he is the kind of person that can do it."