‘Highway 35’: a story of triumph over adversity, by Chris and Denise Arthey

Blog post posted on 26/10/23 |

In 2008, while on a work assignment in the USA, Chris and his wife Denise were exploring Texas on a motorbike when a crash instantly changed their lives. It resulted in them both losing their left leg above the knee, and they found themselves embarking on the road to recovery—a long and painful one.  
Chris shares their story with IAM Roadsmart. 


Chris passed his motorcycle test in 1971 and his driving test a year later. “The first road bike I rode on my 16th birthday was my brother's Honda 90S. I was enthralled by being whisked effortlessly along the country lanes and soon bought my first bike, a 1964 Honda CB160 twin. Great little machine, with 16.5 bhp and a top speed of over 70mph.”  

Life changing  

In May 2007, Chris, an engineer in the oil industry, and his wife, Denise, relocated to Texas for a work assignment. In May of 2008, their lives changed forever. While riding a Harley Davidson on an arrow-straight section of Highway 35, a drunk driver veered across the road at over 80mph and hit them head-on. Chris had been in a coma for nearly two weeks, with severe head and internal injuries, and woke to find that not only had he lost his left leg above the knee, but his wife had also suffered an identical injury.  

There was concern from a medic at the crash site that they “may not make it”. With both suffering multiple, severe injuries, they faced a long road of recovery and rehabilitation. After learning to cope with the pain and a new reality, they focused on the future together. 
Chris and Denise, who live in Surrey, both returned to their vocations, although they’ve now finished their ‘first careers’ and are busy with other things. These include working as ambassadors for Blatchford, a company that manufactures prosthetic limbs. Since the collision, Chris has taken part in marathons and triathlons and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp. He's also picked up a master's degree in biomedical engineering. 

The pair are regularly asked to speak about their experiences and their website is https://chrisarthey.co.uk. They also turned their fight for survival into a book titled ‘Highway 35 – meeting disaster head-on with hope’ which can be found through bookshops and on Amazon. https://chrisarthey.co.uk/book 

Evolving over time  

Chris has ridden a Can-Am Spyder 1,000cc roadster for the past seven years and done 20,000 miles, and he’s currently doing his IAM RoadSmart Advanced Rider course with Wey Valley Advanced Motorcyclists. “Of course, motorcycles have evolved enormously over the decades in terms of power. Electric starters have taken the lid off engine size, so there are plenty of large-capacity bikes out there. Another massive development has been in motorcycle apparel, with more protective gear available that's comfortable to wear. I love my electrically heated under-jacket, and my Satnav. However, the design concept for most of our roads and the basic physics of dissipating kinetic energy in an accident are unchanged. My advice is not to crash, hence my enthusiasm for IAM RoadSmart.” https://chrisarthey.co.uk/book