WHEN THE JOURNEY IS LONGER THAN THE WALK
When Katy Newton ’07 received her degree this spring, many people had no idea what the 25-year-old business major had to overcome just to be able to walk across the graduation stage.
On December 23, 2003, during the Christmas break, Katy was crossing Rt. 30 from her job at Steamboat restaurant when she was struck by a van. Katy has no memory of the accident, which left her critically injured and forever changed her life.
Katy spent many weeks in a coma and gradually coming out of it, as well as more than a year in various stages of rehabilitation. Because of the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), what followed were depression, family tensions, and doubts about her faith.
“I felt as if God wasn’t there,” said Katy, “and over time I have been building my relationship with God back up again.”
She and her husband, Todd, who were married just months before the accident, have seen the grace of God through the challenges and have benefited from the support of Christian counselors.
Katy relies on Todd, a Mokena fireman and paramedic, to fill in the details of the months preceding and following the accident, and she continues to suffer from short-term memory loss. This proved to be one of the biggest challenges when she returned to Trinity in 2005. Todd would help her study for exams, which entailed constant reiteration of the information.
They spoke of the encouragement from Trinity’s faculty and staff, including Dr. Nelvia Brady, professor of business, and John Kooyenga, associate professor of business and Katy’s faculty adviser.
“John was so compassionate,” recounted Todd, “like a father would be.”
He also mentioned the immediate support the family received from then Chaplain Tim Hoekstra.
“Chaplain Hoekstra came to the hospital and prayed with us,” said Todd, choked with emotion. “His presence was like a cold drink of water on a desert day.”
When asked about the importance of achieving her goal of graduating, Katy replied simply that it was just another thing she had to do.
Todd explained that what people at the May 19 commencement couldn’t see were the thousands of hours of therapy that had preceded that day or the myriad struggles and challenges they still face.
“As I watched other students cross the stage,” said Katy, “I wondered how many of them truly appreciated what they had achieved.”
Today Katy works at Lincoln-Way High School in New Lenox, Illinois, as a secretary’s assistant and said she feels confident in the position. Contemplating the accident and past few years, Katy said, simply, “The whole experience makes me realize all the things I may otherwise have taken for granted.”
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