Tim on the ball field at Lourdes University, where he works as a coach
While his fellow classmates graduated, Tim was confined to a hospital bed, where doctors told him that it would be unlikely that he would walk, finish college, or drive again. Berta endured, among other things, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which primarily affected his muscle movement and speech. After nearly six years of recovery, Tim tells his own story.
Tim throws the first pitch at a Bluffton baseball game
A year after the accident, he threw the first pitch of a Bluffton University baseball game, walking to the mound with a community on their feet, cheering him on. A year after that, he walked across the stage in cap and gown before 2,000 members of the Bluffton family, on their feet to applaud him for graduating from Bluffton University. Another year of work, and Tim began to drive again.
Today, he is an assistant baseball coach for Lourdes University, the bench coach for the varsity and the first base coach for the JV. He also serves as a hall director, giving him not only additional responsibilities, but also living independence “like other 28 year-olds.” Just over two years from now, he aims to complete a Master’s in Organizational Leadership. Not sure what lies ahead, Tim asserts, “I know God has brought me this far, so I do not worry.”
From the beginning, the story of the accident and Tim’s journey have been shared widely in the media, with a recent feature on ESPN’s E:60. Since the accident, Tim has set out to honor the life he has been given, believing that God wants him right where he is. “I like sharing my story,” he said. “I do not like what I have gone through, but I am a better person—not athletically, but I have known suffering and loss. I have a unique understanding of life, a unique appreciation of things, and I know the true meaning of love.”
Tim has become a public speaker, sharing both about his journey and injury, speaking at the University of Toledo Physical Therapy program’s white coat ceremony year after year (where he received both in- and out-patient therapy for years). He also developed a talk, “Seasons,” for the Brain Injury Association of Ohio, which he has presented to the Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association (OSLHA) conference, Ohio University, Lourdes University, and church and other groups.
Graduating from Bluffton University, May 2009
Tim’s brain injury has gone through various seasons, he says, and these will continue. “You can’t judge a person with a TBI from one moment… there are seasons.” “There’s no app for this,” he continues with a smile. “The students I work with—I think they might think there is an app for everything—a quick fix. But there’s no app for a brain injury. There’s nothing quick to this.”
Tim has been clear that his recovery could not happen without God, without faith, without supportive family and friends, and without a competent medical team. And yet, he knows that he had to want to get stronger. A lifelong athlete unable to compete in the same ways as he used to, the greatest competition now one might say is with himself. “All of the people in the world could pray for me, but without my own effort, I wouldn’t be where I am today… you can’t have someone do it for you. You have to do it yourself.”
To others experiencing acquired disability, Tim says, “Maybe you have a lot of work to do—but remember, you are perfect in God’s sight. Work hard for what you can get back.”