Pedaling to get life back after head injury
Name : BRYAN LEE
From Calculus III to a first- grade level of learning was the traumatic aftermath of Lee Katterman’s freak bicycle accident nine years ago.
Becoming a successful Tucson businessman today is the result of a long and painful road back.
“I owned a bicycle shop (R&R Bicycles, Ina and Thornydale roads) at the time and was just taking a bike from the store to the office and riding through the parking lot,” Katterman, 32, says. “When I jumped a curb the fork of the (mountain bike) fell away and I landed on my head.”
The trauma to the brain’s frontal lobe was so severe, spinal fluid dripped from Katterman’s ears, his wife, Jene, recalls. “When he’d move, his brain would sit on his skull, so we had to be very careful.”
Katterman was sent home from a hospital emergency room that night instead of being hospitalized, Jene says, something that aggravated his immediate condition.
“Then weird things started to happen,” Katterman says. “I couldn’t remember things. I couldn’t remember people I knew well. I had had a photographic memory and I would go out of the house now doing things like forgetting my pants.”
An aspiring engineer and Pima Community College student at the time, Katterman had to give up his beloved math forever and now has to use a calculator for everything. He also has to put his entire day’s agenda into a Palm Pilot. With cognitive therapy, he had to go back to a basic first-grade level to learn to read and write and it was years before he could drive a car again.
But this didn’t stop him from reinventing his life with nothing going for him but his will, which fortunately no brain injury could touch. A few years later, he helped organized the popular 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo fall bicycle event, and today, he is a successful real estate agent.
“He would get frustrated and do things like pull the phone out of the wall,” Jene says. “His brain waves were not connecting, and he couldn’t remember how to accomplish something. Handling everyday life was the hardest thing, but we had to be patient. We just knew we had to rise to the occasion.”
Katterman says his personality is changed now to the point he is still easygoing but more of a “cut-and-dry, get-things-done guy,” which he admits helps him in a cutthroat business.
“It was my wife,” he says, “and my son. He was 3 at the time of the accident. One of the few things I remembered clearly was his birth, when they cut the umbilical cord. He was something to live for.”