Wachter's father overcomes adversity to support daughter on the court
HOLLAND, Mich. -- Almost 38 years after the accident, thoughts of it can still bring Rick Wachter to tears.
Since he was left for dead by rescue crews, who instead tended to his fiance following a head-on collision in the early hours of Dec. 1, 1974, Wachter is nothing less than ecstatic to be watching his daughter, Kaiti Wachter, who is a senior libero at St. Thomas (Minn.), play in the NCAA III volleyball championships. His wife and Kaiti's mother, Sue, did not make the 10-hour drive from the Twin Cities to West Michigan because that crash, which was caused by a drunk driver traveling more than 100 miles per hour, left her with titanium rods in her back, stretching from her pelvis to her neck.
While first responders did not expect Rick Wachter to live, they also did not expect Sue, who was 19 at the time, to ever walk again. Sue not only walked again, but she had three children, Donald, who is now 30, Sarah, who is 28 and Kaiti, whose Tommies won their semifinal match against Elmhurst on Friday to advance to Saturday's national championship.
“My mom is the most amazing woman.” Kaiti Wachter said. “She has taught me to live through adversity. You have to struggle through adversity. It's like Epictetus [a Greek Stoic philosopher] said, 'It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.' She is the most amazing woman.”
An All-American defensive specialist, Wachter has recorded almost 2,900 digs in her four-year career at St. Thomas, which is good enough to place her 11th on the NCAA Division III list for career digs. Ali Drushal of Wooster recorded 2,974 from 2005-08 while Jessica Trilo of Penn State-Altoona had 2,856 between 2007 and 2010.
Having bitten off his tongue in the crash that propelled Rick Wachter's car more than 40 yards after impact, he was bleeding so profusely that he heard members of the rescue crew tell each other that he would never survive the ride to a hospital.
“I thought they were going to leave me,” Wachter said. “Susie was under the dashboard and she was crying and she sounded like a little girl. Then she stopped and I thought she was dead. When they were getting me out I passed out and woke up in the ambulance. It was then that I heard Susie and I knew she wasn't dead.”
Sue Wachter suffered a shattered left shoulder and an exploded L5 vertebra.
“They told my wife she would never have kids,” Rick Wachter said, “but I have been blessed with three intelligent children and my wife is able to walk.
“Being here is the greatest thing in the world,” he said. “I couldn't be happier. Susie wanted to be here, but she couldn't make that drive. I texted her through the whole match though. I could not be happier.”