Jerry Anderson Reflects on Meeting Tim Berta

Jerry Anderson's story about Tim Berta aired Monday, May 21, at 11 p.m. Here, Jerry reflects on the time he spent with the Bertas.

by Jerry Anderson

Life's never perfect. But his, it seems, was in the area code. When you ask his parents if there's anything he didn't do and excel at -- in school,  in sports, in life -- they smile and say,  "The laundry."

With those thoughts I begin my introduction of an amazing -- and now extremely challenged --young man.

I met Tim Berta last week. And I've rarely been so touched by a story. I'm showing my story Monday night on News 11 at 11 p.m.

Tim Berta was a multi-sports prep star at Ida, Michigan High School. But this isn't a story about a "jock."

"We were always very proud because the very first letter he earned for his varsity jacket was for academics," says Tim's mom Karen, proudly.

Tim was among the top 10 students in his class. He chose to attend Bluffton University and play two sports -- football and baseball -- and study biology. Tim wants to be a nurse anesthetist so he can help patients.

"He said,  'If, at the end of the day, I help somebody that was scared, if I help them be a little more relaxed and go through that then I would feel like I was doing a good thing and I would feel good about myself',' " his parents said.

After two years of playing two sports Tim made a decision. "He agonized over it," his dad Rob says. But Tim chose to continue playing only football at Bluffton.

The Beavers' baseball coach understood, but hated to lose Tim. He offered the junior-to-be a part-time coaching position with the baseball team. That put Tim on the bus -- seated halfway back and on the right -- when the Bluffton charter spun off an overpass and landed on I-75 in Atlanta.

It was early on March 2. The Bertas lives changed in an instant.

So badly was Tim swollen he couldn't be immediately identified. But Karen's niece, an Atlanta resident, remembered his muscular shoulders.

"So she walked into the room," Karen relates, "and she asked them to lift up the shoulder of the gown and she said 'That's Tim.' "

Doctors also lifted his eyelids. Tim's blue eyes, now looking at nothing, only further confirmed it was him.

"I don't think you can prepare somebody for what we saw," agonizes Karen. Adds Rob, "When I walked in and saw him, it literally took my breath away."

In an emergency surgery, doctors at Grady removed part of Tim's skull to ease pressure on his swelling brain. Rob and Karen know those surgeons saved Tim's life.

Ten weeks later, the Bertas relate how their lives, and that of their first-born, changed in an instant. And they speak, in almost overwhelmed tones, about the outpouring of prayers and support from literally around the world.

"... and it just gives me hope in mankind again," says Rob.

In one visit, I saw a severely injured young man. But being there every day, Rob and Karen see progress.

I can't wait to show you. Tim doesn't speak but he does communicate -- shaking his head, giving "thumbs up or down."

Watch on Monday when Tim faces a math problem -- yes, a simple one -- but writes an answer. See if you are touched as I am -- and as hopeful, as Rob and Karen remain.

"We have those same hopes that he'll still be able to do the dreams that he wants," says Karen.

I hope, too, and believe. And pray.

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