Homicide detective loses leg, finds hope at the Adaptive Training Foundation

As a homicide detective for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Chris Schaefer has seen his fair share of the grisly side of society.

The 46-year-old Colorado native is keenly aware of how intense life can get, but when he lost his left leg to a severe infection after several knee replacements, he felt like he was thrown directly into hell.

Schaefer and his family. Photo courtesy of Chris Schaefer

“I don’t think I’m the type of guy who would ever kill himself, but there is nothing worse than praying to God that you just don’t wake up in the morning,” Schaefer said.

Long gone were the days of skiing and climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks, or so he thought.

Lucky for Schaefer, he found Dallas-based Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF), where severely wounded veterans and civilians alike go to work side-by-side to retrain their bodies and brains as one unified tribe. He went for the sweat, working as hard as any NFL pro or Olympic medalist, but he stayed for what can’t be mopped up — a feeling of belonging.

In the process, Schaefer learned that regaining strength and balance isn’t a lightning bolt from the sky, but a build-up of daily habits that will one day get him back on his beloved alpine trails.

Becoming a Police Officer

Schaefer with his wife on the day of his amputation. Photo courtesy of Chris Schaefer

Schaefer always knew he wanted to be a police officer. Growing up, his father was a coroner and his mother was an emergency room nurse. If his dad got a call about a body in the middle of the night and his mom was working, Schaefer would go with his dad.

“The police officers would take care of me when my dad was picking up bodies,” Schaefer said. “I don’t know what it was. I just wanted to be a cop, too.”

His dad would be embalming bodies, and Schaefer would be in the next room playing with blocks. The way he saw it, he was no different from the kid down the street whose father crunched numbers as an accountant.

Before joining the force,…

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