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Utahn who was shot in the head on his mission lives life to the fullest after 26 years

Posted at 9:40 PM, Sep 26, 2023

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah — Twenty-six years ago, Elder Orin Voorheis of Pleasant Grove was serving a Latter-day Saint mission in Argentina when he and his companion were confronted by four robbers. One of them held a gun to Orin's head and demanded money. The gun went off and almost robbed Orin of his life and his future — almost.

He met and married his wife, Chartina, after returning home.

Chartina's sister-in-law, Jill, and Jill's children are part of a network of family and friends who care for Orin while Chartina teaches history and financial literacy at Lone Peak High School.

"He's just like us. Just because he's had an accident, he's still there. He still loves and understands, and still wants to be a part of everyone's life," Jill said.

Orin's vocalization is extremely limited. When he was shot, the bullet caused serious damage to the parts of his brain that control speech and motor skills, which is why they continue to work with him.

And he has made progress.

"The first day I met him, he had no facial expression, and he couldn't move anything," Chartina said.

Chartina's aunt lived in Orin's LDS ward and told her she should meet Orin and help with his therapy. That was in 1997.

"I could just tell that he was there, and that he understood everything going on," she said.

At first, doctors were not optimistic Orin would even survive, let alone have any semblance of a normal life. Chartina helped with his therapy for five and a half years and knew their relationship was getting serious. Then on the day before Thanksgiving 2002, using sign language, he proposed. They got married the day after Christmas.

After 21 years of marriage, Orin and Chartina live anything but a cloistered life. They have dear friends, they supervise high school dances, they serve at church, they travel, Orin has a mancave in the garage and is a greeter at Deseret Industries.

So, what is their key to making it work?

"A lot of it is just not worrying about what you don't have and focusing on what you do have," Chartina said. "I think that's important anywhere in life, because you can compare yourself to anybody else and be miserable all the time." 

"We laugh all the time. We tease each other all the time. We have little competitions all the time. We just have a lot of fun," she added.

Before he was shot, Orin loved to paint — and he still does. Two of his art prints have been made into greeting cards, which have his story on the back.

He has an art teacher that helps him with the fine motor skills needed for painting.

Back in 1997, Bob Evans did a story with Orin not long after he got back from Argentina.

At the time, Orin's parents were very hopeful that he'd make a big comeback. Now, more than two decades later, even though his physical limitations remain, just about everyone who knows him realizes no comeback was necessary — because the Orin they knew and loved before the shooting never left. He's still right here."