New year, new adventure

The orange Harley-Davidson logo flashed across the screen when Kathy Tustin unlocked her phone Tuesday.

Six month’s earlier, the Newport resident was riding a shiny new motorcycle bearing that same orange logo when a truck carrying a camper rolled through a stop sign at U.S. 22 near Zanesville and straight into Tustin’s path. Her motorcycle drove straight through the camper.

The horrific June 30 accident left a lot of things broken-including Tustin’s neck, pelvis, and two ribs-but it did not break the spirit of the 55-year-old Newport resident.

“I’m so far ahead of where I’m supposed to be. I’m thrilled,” said Tustin as she focused on improving the mobility of her right shoulder Tuesday at St. Marys Physical Therapy Clinic.

The last day of the year marked Tustin’s very last day of physical therapy.

January will mean many new beginnings for Tustin. For one thing, she expects to be given clearance to return to work after a six-month hiatus.

But more importantly, Kathy and her husband Rick Tustin have found the perfect way to celebrate the new year and Kathy’s new lease on life.

“My husband played Santa Claus and got me a new motorcycle for Christmas,” she said.

Saturday Kathy and Rick will be hitching the 2014 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim to a trailer and taking it to Florida where Kathy will ease her way back into riding.

Though many people are skeptical of her getting back on a bike, Kathy said she knows she is a safe rider and is looking forward to getting back to something she loves.

“Motorcycle (riding) has always been very important to me. I love it. I can’t not do it,” she said.

It is not without a lot of effort that Kathy has completed her physical therapy faster than her doctors anticipated.

Along with all the broken bones, Kathy suffered three fractures to her right arm and four fractures in her back in the accident.

Though sessions in Columbus, Marietta, and finally St. Marys, W.Va., she has relearned dozens of things that used to be second nature.

From learning to walk (“It felt like my legs were hollow toothpicks,” said Kathy) to learning how to use a computer mouse again (“I’m so tired of Spider Solitaire,” she jokes) Kathy has not taken a single victory for granted.

Tuesday, she shared one of her recent accomplishments with her physical therapy assistant-being able to put food in the oven and remove it without fearing she will drop it.

“I know that sounds slight for some people, but for me that’s a big deal,” she said.

Neither does Kathy take lightly the numerous benefits that the local community threw for her as she recovered.

Nearly 500 people attended a spaghetti dinner fundraiser held for Kathy in August at the Newport Elementary School cafeteria.

It was an overwhelmingly happy day for Kathy, who tried to talk to everyone.

“You know how people say that when you almost die, your life flashes before your eyes? Well that is my feeling of that day. When I looked around the crowd it was people from my whole life,” she said.

One of those people was 61-year-old Patsy Goddard, who had been riding with Tustin the day of the accident.

“In a small community, people care for each other,” said Goddard.

Goddard has also faced a long recovery. She finished physical therapy in September and still has some issues with her shoulder. More than anything, she is thankful she and Kathy were being safe riders that day.

“I really feel we both would have been dead had we not had helmets on,” she said.

Goddard said she hopes drivers remember to be more vigilant of motorcycle riders.

The responsible driver in the accident, 43-year-old Joseph Gerger, of Madison, has been charged with failing to stop at a stop sign and two first-degree misdemeanor counts of child endangerment for allowing two young girls to ride in the camper he was towing, said Lt. Matt Boyd of the Zanesville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. His case is scheduled for pre-trial in January.

Helmets and safety gear have become an increasingly important crusade for Kathy as well.

“I’ve gotten to speak at a lot of local motorcycle groups since the accident and I talk about safety every chance I get,” she said.