Last updated: August 23. 2013 11:24AM - 61 Views

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BLUFFTON ‚?? Ask anyone and they'll say Tim Berta has made monumental strides in the five years since the Bluffton University bus crash almost took his life. They'll say he is an inspiration.He, too, knows he has come a long way and thanks God for it. But he also feels like he hasn't gone anywhere.‚??It is like the world is passing me by,‚?Ě Berta said. ‚??A lot of friends my age or even younger are finding permanent jobs, getting married and having kids. And I don't have any of that. ... I am heading toward that path but I have been headed toward the path since I was 17.‚?ĚStill, Berta, of Ida, Mich., is doing much more than doctors ever imagined after he was thrown from the bus carrying Bluffton's baseball team as it fell from a bridge and crashed onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta.The March 2, 2007, crash killed players Tyler Williams, of Lima, Scott Harmon, of Elida, David Betts, of Bryan, Cody Holp, of Arcanum, and Zachary Arend, of Oakwood. The bus driver and his wife, Jerome ‚??Jerry‚?Ě and Jean Niemeyer, of Columbus Grove, also died.Berta, a senior student coach, was nearly among the dead. When he survived, doctors said he would never have the life he did before the accident.‚??They told me I would never walk, never drive, never graduate, never learn anything new,‚?Ě he said. ‚??They thought I was done then.‚?ĚBerta wasn't ready to believe that, even though he couldn't remember the accident and knew his future held no guarantees.‚??Honestly, there was not much that I knew, but what I did know is that I am going to put forth effort toward reaching my goal just like I have done my whole life,‚?Ě he said.Berta underwent several surgeries immediately. Doctors removed his spleen, a blood clot from his brain and a portion of his skull so his brain could swell. He broke all of his ribs on the left side, his collarbone and a shoulder blade. He remained in an induced coma for weeks and suffered a setback when a form of pneumonia set in, requiring more surgery.It was almost a month after the accident when Berta opened his eyes for the first time. It was also the first day his team took the field that season. Moved to a hospital in Toledo in mid-April, it was not until June that Berta was able to go home. Next started the hard work of physical, speech and occupational therapy. Berta had to relearn to walk, talk and even swallow. They were long weeks, putting in at least 10 hours a week. It took almost a year before he could even begin to walk.‚??A lot of time, work, a lot of sweat,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I don't know if I can tell you in words how hard it was. Nearly impossible odds. Some people told me it was impossible.‚?Ě One goal early on was to finish his degree. He did that at Bluffton and is now enrolled as a biology major at Lourdes College in Toledo. He will start its master's program in organizational leadership in the fall. Plans even before the accident to become a nurse have been abandoned. Living without a spleen has weakened his immune system, making it unwise to spend so much time around sick people.Berta finished organized therapy in August 2010 after his driving rehabilitation. He now has his license, something he said all along he would achieve. Berta still spends three days a week working out on the treadmill and elliptical and doing other things he did in therapy.Berta is also back on the field. He is a student coach with Lourdes' baseball team. He previously helped with his high school football team. There are things he can't do, like throwing batting practice or hitting ground balls, but is loving being around the game again.‚??Here a few years ago I was lying in a hospital bed thinking my academic career was probably done, for sure athletic playing career and in general being around athletics was done,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Now here I am in school and coaching again.‚?ĚLike Bluffton's team, Lourdes baseball team heads to Florida for a tournament this weekend. Berta is going, but will fly. Even though he remembers nothing about the accident, being on a bus is out of the question.‚??Every time I am on them I am terrified, always looking around and seeing if we hit the wall, what can I grab onto, where will I fly,‚?Ě he said. Being told he would never walk or do the things he had always done motivated Berta then and now. It made him work hard at his recovery. Today, it makes him speak out about brain injuries. He's spoken at schools, churches and multiple times at the National Football Foundation Toledo Chapter's hall of fame banquet. Berta feels like he was handled extremely negatively, with doctors never giving his recovery any hope.‚??I think people need to learn and know about brain injuries and how no injury, especially a brain injury, can be predicted as to what they will be able to do or how far they come back,‚?Ě he said. A recent speech meant a trip back to Bluffton University to speak at a class taught by baseball Coach James Grandey. The two are in touch frequently.‚??He is inspiring to me and everyone else he comes in contact with,‚?Ě Grandey said. ‚??It is amazing to see how far he has come.‚?ĚDespite his success, there are still challenges for Berta. Writing is difficult, especially in small places. That makes writing checks and taking quick notes in class almost impossible. His speech is clearer, without as much hesitancy as a few years ago. He walks much better. But both are not what they were before the accident. Berta keeps working on getting even better, but also on enjoying ‚??the gift of life‚?Ě he's been given by God. Faith continues to be at the center of his life, saying answered prayers is why he is alive and how he's come so far. Through his hard recovery work, he hopes he is honoring his teammates who lost their lives. He tries to do so every day.‚??Their parents would love to have their child even in a wheelchair or whatever for the rest of their lives,‚?Ě he said. ‚??Why can't I try to enjoy life and enjoy the gift of life I have been given and do the best I can. That kind of honors their passing.‚?Ě

Berta’s story inspirational, touching lives
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