By Debby Stone
June 18, 2008, was a sunny, clear morning that Kathy Hurd will never forget and friend Kathi Sturgeon can’t remember. While riding their bicycles on El Dorado Hills Boulevard’s bike lane around 10 a.m. Hurd and Sturgeon were hit by an intoxicated, uninsured 19-year-old driver. Hurd and Sturgeon, members of the the Bodacious Biking Babes all-female bicycle team, were training for the Seattle to Portland double century to be held one month later.
Both women were critically injured, one with life-threatening injuries.
Their journeys to recovery will be celebrated on Saturday, June 18, three years after the crash at the collision location on El Dorado Hills Boulevard. At 11:30 a.m. Hurd and Sturgeon will ride their bicycles from the corner of El Dorado Hills Boulevard and Serrano Parkway about one mile to “the rocks,” the vicinity where they were hit. Friends, family and the community are invited to ride their bikes with them or walk behind the cyclists or meet at “the rocks” for a toast with non alcoholic cider. A buy-your-own lunch at Bistro 33 in Town Center will follow.
Hurd was conscious at the crash scene in 2008 and was taken by ambulance to UC Davis where she spent more than a week in intensive care and was treated for multiple fractures in her back, a broken clavicle, severe road rash and a concussion.
After a challenging summer and fall of doctor appointments, physical therapy and cancelled vacations and physical activities, Hurd returned to the healthy wife, mother of two and community volunteer that she was before the collision. She still has some painful days and can feel where metal was inserted into her back.
Sturgeon, unconscious after the crash, was air lifted to Sutter Roseville Hospital where she received a craniotomy — part of her skull was removed to allow her brain space to swell due to the severe head trauma she suffered. She was not expected to survive the traumatic brain injury.
Other critical injuries she suffered were a severely injured left leg and knee, broken pelvis and dislocated shoulder. Sturgeon spent six days in a coma and about three weeks in intensive care before being transferred to Mercy General Hospital Acute Rehabilitation where she re-learned how to swallow, feed herself, hold her head up, sit up, dress herself, how to write her name, stand and walk. She left Mercy Acute Rehabilitation after six weeks and lived with friends for five months while undergoing outpatient therapy. Approximately seven months after the collision Sturgeon returned to her home and re-started independently living. About nine months after the collision she was able to drive a car again. Approximately 18 months after the crash Sturgeon was riding tandem bicycle with her physicial therapist. Together, patient and therapist practiced until they reached the goal of riding more than 50 miles on a tandem bicycle in an organized bicycle ride.
Perhaps the most difficult outcome of Sturgeon’s traumatic brain injury is that it has prohibited her from returning to her passion and occupation, ministry at Lakeside Church in Folsom. Her income is limited to disability now as she is unable to work in a full time capacity due to the traumatic brain injury and its lingering limitations.
Sturgeon and Hurd are described by their friends and family as forgiving, compassionate, humble, grateful for each day and their health, avid bicyclists and passionate about giving back to the community. Each woman developed a passion for advocacy — Hurd for safe driving and Sturgeon for head injury and related platforms including safe driving.
Both Hurd and Sturgeon are among a core group of volunteers that have brought P.A.R.T.Y. or Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth to the Sacramento area, specifically El Dorado Hills, Folsom and Roseville. The program expects to expand in Placer County, Elk Grove and West Sacramento next school year. P.A.R.T.Y. is a reality education program offered to high school students through their health courses, off campus, prior to the receipt of their drivers permits and licenses.
“As a mother and victim of a drunk driver, I am wholeheartedly supportive of the efforts to help teens and all people make informed decisions, especially when driving. Distracted driving is an extremely important issue for everyone on the road. Drowsy driving, drunk driving and texting while driving can take a life or changes lives in very unhappy and painful ways. In the blink of an eye, the time it takes to change or radio station, cd or reach for a water bottle, a horrible accident could occur,” Hurd said
P.A.R.T.Y. is a highly visible program in Canada and is spreading through the Unites States.
The P.A.R.T.Y. program rotates high school students through a variety of stations including a graphic presentation by an emergency room doctor. The presentation illustrates the reality of trauma injuries treated in the ER. Other stations experienced by the students in the P.A.R.T.Y. program include a crash scene with fire and paramedic professionals, a view of what happens to trauma patients when they arrive in the emergency room, an opportunity to wear goggles that give students the feeling that one has been drinking alcohol (goggle wearers’ motor skills are impaired), a rehabilitation station staffed by Sturgeon and a talk by a young adult involved in a distracted driving accident where a death occurred.
Hurd is P.A.R.T.Y.’s director of fundraising, a sizeable challenge, especially under current economic conditions. P.A.R.T.Y. is dependent on sponsors and benefactors like Waste Connections, U.S. Bank, State Farm Insurance, Hanson/McClain and others. Two major P.A.R.T.Y. fundraisers are in the works, a Fun Run set for Saturday, Aug. 20, in Folsom and a Golf Tournament scheduled for Friday, Oct. 14, at Empire Ranch Golf Course in Folsom. Registration for both events is at partyprogramca.com. Fun Run and Golf Tournament Sponsors are welcome, as are volunteers at both events.
Advocating for the brain injured and safe roads
Sturgeon, the former Pastor of Women’s Ministries at Lakeside Church, lives with the challenges and limitations of traumatic brain injury on a daily basis. “My injury has not allowed me to return to a paid ministry position in the church, but God has brought me through this unexpected and painful journey for a reason,” she said. “My ministry continues in a direction I would have never imagined three years ago. I want to prevent brain injury, raise awareness and advocate for those with brain injury and other disabilities.”
Sturgeon shares her journey and message of hope with a variety worthy organizations. She speaks at Mothers Against Drunk Driving as many as three times monthly in the greater Sacramento area. She is a member of the MADD Victims Impact Panel and tells her story to an audience of driving under the influence offenders. DUI offenders have an educational component that must be satisfied before their license is renewed. MADD partners with the courts and providers of DUI education to bring stories like Sturgeon’s to offenders.
Sturgeon also facilitates a Brain Injury Support Group at Lakeside Church and has returned to Acute Rehabilitation at Mercy General as a weekly volunteer. She is an encouragement to the Acute Rehabilitation patients at Mercy. She can tell the patients there and their family members that she knows what it’s like to undergo rehabilitation and multiple therapies for severe injury. She is an inspiration and humble helper to the staff and patients at Mercy.
“Kathi astounds us with her compassion to give back and her passion to improve.” noted Lynda Eaton, physical therapist and Client Services Liaison at Mercy. “When Kathi came to our outpatient rehabilitation program after six weeks of acute (in patient) rehab, she had low levels of both cognitive and physical skills. We were unsure if Kathi could re-learn skills beyond dressing herself.”
During outpatient therapy Kathi lived with friends for five months. “The combination of her supportive living situation, a caring friend network, her inner drive to improve and the ongoing and consistent outpatient therapy which challenged her healing brain, she re-gained the skills to live independently. It was a profound leap in skill at many levels.” remarked Eaton.
“Kathi continues to astound us as she volunteers in many capacities and tackles the challenges that confront her.” Eaton concluded.
In late March Sturgeon fundraised for and walked in the fourth annual Walk For Thought at the State Capitol. Walk for Thought is sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of California and Eaton is a primary organizer of the Sacramento Walk. More than 700 people, including Sturgeon and a team of Bodacious Biking Babes, participated in the Sacramento Walk for Thought this year. The Walk raised more than $52,000 in Sacramento and Sturgeon raised more than $600, plus her Bodacious teammates chipped in another $500.
Rehabilitation is a hot button for Sturgeon. Her dream is to hold a fundraising bicycle event, Ride for Hope, with multiple lengths, perhaps a 10-mile ride for children and families, a 30-mile ride for casual cyclists and a metric century route for the more experienced cycling community. Sturgeon’s aim is to direct the funds raised by this ride to brain injury advocacy and rehabilitation. She has a soft place in her heart for Acute Rehabilitation at Mercy General and the Raisin Hope Foundation. Saul Raisin, a professional racing cyclist, was injured in a cycling race in 2006 in France when he was 23 years old and suffered a brain injury with similarities to Sturgeon’s traumatic brain injury. Sturgeon was inspired by his story in the book Tour de Life from Coma to Competition by Raisin and Dave Shields.
Friend Marty Listberger and Sturgeon are in the preliminary and formative stages of planning Ride for Hope and fall 2012 is the target date for the ride. Listberger and Sturgeon hope to collaborate with and benefit organizations like BIACAL, Sacramento Head Trauma Support Project and the Raisin Hope Foundation through Ride for Hope.
In addition to the ride itself, Sturgeon and Listberger want to empower those with brain injuries and other disabilities on ride day to participate in the ride and attend an exhibition showcasing sports equipment and other resources designed specifically for those with disabilities and brain injuries.
“We would like Ride for Hope to be not only a great ride for all cyclists — those with and without disabilities — but also a resource to empower those with disabilities and brain injuries to continue to challenge themselves and any limitation they may have due to their disability. We want to be a resource for hope, healing and rehabilitation.” said Listberger, a cyclist whose wife, Sandy, is a Bodacious Biking Babe.
Sturgeon and the Listbergers made acquaintance through the Bodacious Biking Babes and Lakeside Church. Listberger is a storage sales specialist at IBM and an active community volunteer and Lakeside Church member. Recently Listberger was honored by the Rotary Club of Folsom He received the Paul Harris Award and the club received two International Service awards for rebuilding homes and constructing a clean water system in Ica, Peru, after the August 2008 8.0 earthquake. Several volunteers and local organizations like Shelter Our World and Rotary International were involved in the rebuilding.
The inaugural Ride for Hope and Exhibition is a grand effort for Sturgeon and Listberger. They are enlisting the advice and support of many volunteers, experienced and inexperienced in cycling events and rehabilitation and disability advocacy. The Occupational Therapist School at Sacramento City College has expressed an interested to staff a booth at the event and provide occupational therapists and volunteers. The Bodacious Biking Babes will be a part of the volunteers required to make Ride for Hope a reality.
A critical crash nearly three years ago transformed the lives and passions of Kathy Hurd and Kathi Sturgeon. They overcame severe physical injury and adversity and are now focusing on making the world a better place for those with brain injuries and the roads a safe place for all of us. Bodacious passions from a pair of courageous babes.