Former state Rep. Solbach back home, working again, after April collision

Former state representative John Solbach discusses a county project on Stull Road in 2002. The former state representative is recovering after being badly injured in an April 18 accident on that road, near his home in western Douglas County.

John Solbach is picking up where he left off after he was badly injured in a head-on collision earlier this year near his home in Douglas County.

The 65-year-old former state legislator was hospitalized for months after suffering several broken bones on April 18, when the all-terrain vehicle he was driving in western Douglas County struck a car. Now he is back at home, walking again, and even spending a few hours a day at his office downtown, where he works as a Lawrence attorney.

It hasn’t been easy, Solbach said. He is still using a cane and continues with physical therapy sessions three times a week. Although his recovery has been impressive to some, there’s no getting around the fact that the accident was traumatic: He suffered a broken pelvis, hip, clavicle, arm and leg.

“It wasn’t as much fun as you might think,” Solbach joked. “I’m a little bit better every day.”

The accident occurred about 9 a.m. on April 18, when Solbach was driving a Kawasaki Mule ATV west on Stull Road, near his home. He entered the eastbound lane to make a left turn and collided with a car traveling eastbound. Solbach was thrown from the ATV. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

“It was a near-death experience. It’s not the first one I’ve had, but it is the most recent,” Solbach said, referring to his service with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Solbach is a combat veteran who survived many missions and was once wounded, he said.

After this latest close call, Solbach spent 99 days in the hospital and in a skilled nursing care center in Lawrence, before returning home about a month ago. He’s had to learn to drive again and is working on stability, strength and pain management. Since then, Solbach has been able to return to work, though not at full capacity. That will take still more time, he said. But he missed just one meeting of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, and is active again as a member.

Solbach credits the help and support of others with making his recovery bearable. His wife visited him every day in the hospital, while his sons took care of the family farm. Many others, including some of his buddies from the Marine Corps, visited or called to wish him well. Even some bank officials he had dealings with as an attorney were willing to come to his hospital room to take care of urgent business.

As if to prove he was back in action, Solbach went to court last month to contest two citations he received after his accident, one for not wearing a seatbelt and the other for failure to yield.

He beat them both, receiving not-guilty verdicts in a bench trial.