The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local News

July 7, 2014

Crash survivor travels road to recovery

Sunday, July 8, 2014 — Although the Monday morning started like most first days of the work and school week, it quickly detoured and has yet to return to normal.

Katelin Rush was supposed to text her mother, Lola Gaston, once she arrived at school like she did every school morning. Katelin first dropped her brother, L.J., off for classes at North Stanly Middle School before the junior headed to start her day at North Stanly High.

Lola proceeded to work at Albemarle Pediatric. Her boss called and said she was running late because of snarled traffic due to an accident in front of the high school.

Meanwhile, Lola noticed that Katelin was three minutes late texting to signal that she had arrived safely. Lola tried calling her oldest, but the call instead went to voice mail.

“I did that two more times, still no answer,” Lola said.

Then her phone rang from her son’s football coach, who told her that he was told to get word to her that Katelin had been in a crash.

“Is she OK?” Lola asked the caller.

“He said ‘You just need to get there.’ It’s the worst nightmare of a call a parent can get.”

Katelin, 17, was turning into school March 17 when she crossed into the path of a pickup driven by another teenage motorist heading to Stanly Academy. The truck slammed into Katelin’s driver’s side door.

Katelin suffered critical head trauma. Authorities would have had her airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, but the weather proved too risky. Instead they rushed her by ambulance.

Katelin was comatose from a traumatic brain injury. She remained that way for four weeks.

Friends, classmates and school personnel flooded the hospital’s waiting room to stand vigil.

“I couldn’t wait to tell her,” Lola said.

“She probably didn’t know she was loved that much.”

Supporters leaped into action to start a fundraiser in Katelin’s honor, first selling T-shirts with a biblical verse and pleas for prayer for Katelin.

School administrators assigned extra counselors to help students cope with Katelin’s crash and her perilous condition.

Lola waited for a change in Katelin’s condition. It was slow to come.

The first sign of progress came when Katelin opened her eyes. Progress continues to come in small doses.

On May 27, Katelin returned to her home and familiar surroundings for the first time since she left that fateful morning for school.  

“She’s more alert now,” Lola said.

“I see her getting stronger and stronger. We’ve just got to wait on her.”

Unable to speak, Katelin responds to simple commands by blinking her eyes for yes or no. Or she uses a computer application to communicate.

Katelin relies on a feeding tube for nourishment.

There’s a homebound nurse to help shoulder Katelin’s care.

In spite of adversity, Lola remains optimistic, refusing to utter a negative word about Katelin’s circumstances.

When Lola’s voice quivers with emotion, she stares straight ahead, chin up, brushing tears off her cheeks.

“She’s going to get back to herself,” Lola said.

“She’s a fighter.

“The Lord’s going to take care of her.”

While her classmates enjoy their summer before their senior year, Katelin undergoes countless therapies amid hope she, too, will return among them.

Katelin is undergoing physical, occupational and speech therapy. Otherwise, she’s in bed or a wheelchair.

Because she is frequently back and forth to Charlotte for treatment, there are logistical issues to work out such as transportation. And there is constant grappling with insurance representatives.

The community, however, has not wavered with its support.

Prospect Baptist Church built a deck with a handicap ramp to assist Katelin’s entering and exiting the house.

Culp Lumber donated the wood.

Clayton Homes provided materials for Katelin’s bathroom.

Donors have stepped forward to help Katelin and her family during the difficult time.  

Fundraisers helped defray mounting medical expenses that often accompany tragic events.

Crystal Simpson is spearheading one slated for Sept. 5 at West Albemarle Baptist Church. Simpson hopes to sell 5,000 barbecued chicken plates amid efforts to raise enough money to buy Katelin a conversion van to help carry her back and forth between medical appointments. She also hopes to apply proceeds toward Katelin’s medical debt.

Simpson and her daughter, Hailey, have known Katelin since kindergarten. She calls her a “happy” and “bubbly child” with tremendous “spunk.”

And Simpson agrees with Lola that Katelin will battle back to resume her place in life.

“She is definitely a fighter,” Simpson said.

“If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t be here.

“God is on her side.”

Katelin is the frequent beneficiary of prayer, a gift the family cannot do without.  

“That’s definitely what she needs: prayer,” Lola said.

To submit story ideas, contact Ritchie Starnes at (704) 982-2121 ext. 28.


Text Only
Local News
  • Dragon Boat Resident wants to bring boat races to Stanly

    Ann Pressly is not ripping herself off with the idea of bringing dragon boat racing to Stanly County. She is just taking advantage of a good thing and something that is gaining in popularity.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • School board hopeful files to oppose Poole

    District 1 Board of Education member Melvin Poole has something he has not had since 1998, an opponent.

    July 21, 2014

  • Crisco died of heart issues

    An autopsy report released this week indicates former secretary of commerce Keith Crisco died from heart problems.

    July 18, 2014

  • Stanly projects stall

    Barring any major changes in the next couple of months it is unlikely that any highway projects in Stanly County will receive funding from the N.C. Department of Transportation next year.

    July 18, 2014

  • 4-H Students ‘power up’ over summer break

    “The Magic of Electricity” flowed freely at Stanly Community College recently as 15 youth, ages 9-13, gathered in an electronics lab for a 4-H Summer Blast class which had advertised that the youth would be “shocked” at what they could do.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tucker RNG powers to grid

    Two months after connecting to the power grid for the first time, Tucker RNG found itself featured in Biomass Magazine.

    July 16, 2014

  • Park Ranger #1 Children test knowledge of Morrow Mtn. ranger

    Ever since the TV show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” folks can’t help but wonder how they would match up with the grade schoolers in their lives.

    July 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • Council calls on residents to share opinions on STI

    After hearing about the changes the state’s new Strategic Transportation Investment program could have on roads in the area, the Badin Town Council is calling its citizens to action.

    July 14, 2014

  • Singing Americans #1 Singing Americans celebrate 25 years

    Sunday afternoon, the Singing Americans of Stanly County presented its rendition of Randy Vader and Rose Aspinall’s patriotic cantata “Indivisible” at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center.

    July 11, 2014 2 Photos

  • Alcoa Scholarships Alcoa awards valedictorians scholarships

    Nearly a month after graduation and in the middle of summer vacation, Stanly County Schools’ valedictorians were summoned for one more assignment before going off to college.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide