Top stories of 2014: Kitterman injured in ATV accident
When Austin Kitterman, a standout athlete at Russellville High School, was severely injured in an ATV accident, the entire community came together to support his family.
Kitterman injured in ATV accident
An entire community came together Sunday night to pray for Russellville High School junior Austin Kitterman, who was seriously injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident early Sunday morning.
Scores of students, teachers, and community members poured into Tiger Stadium for the 8 p.m. prayer vigil held for the football standout who has been described as a leader for this year’s Golden Tiger team.
According to officials, Kitterman was a passenger in an ATV that crashed on Franklin 34 at the intersection of Franklin 40 in the East Franklin community at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday.
Officials said Kitterman was airlifted from the scene and transported to Huntsville Hospital where he immediately underwent surgery for his injuries, including head and brain trauma.
He is currently listed in critical condition in the neurological intensive care unit.
Russellville head coach Mark Heaton, who spoke at the service, said the community has come together over this incident and he hopes it will continue.
“We need everybody’s prayers for him, his family, and for this community,” Heaton said.
“We need to stay close and stay together as a community and help each other through this.”
Heaton said the team had their regular Sunday meeting at 2 p.m., and he said the team was glad to be able to all be together.
“We came together as a team and discussed our duties moving forward—our duties as a team and our duties to him,” Heaton said.
“We plan on doing the best we can and that won’t change. Austin would want it this way and we want to honor him in the way we prepare and handle this.
“This is an extremely difficult situation to deal with and we’ve all got jobs to do. We’re going to trust in the Lord and trust that Austin is in his hands.”
Kitterman making progress
When Austin Kitterman was involved in an ATV wreck and was seriously injured on Sept. 26, no one was sure what would be next for him and his family. At the time, no one was even sure that he would live.
The community rallied around him and his family and support began to fill up Facebook, show up on T-shirts, and stick onto the back of high school football helmets all across the state.
Now, just six weeks removed from that night, Kitterman is living in Atlanta with his mother while attending five-hour rehabilitation sessions, five days a week. These rehab sessions come way ahead of schedule according to his doctors, but his mother, Vicki Kitterman, is not surprised.
“His doctors said that there would be damage to the part of his brain responsible for motivation,” his mother said. “But no, he is still motivated. It is a nothing short of a miracle for him to be where he is today.”
Austin, a former team-captain and standout on the Russellville High School football team, surprised his team Friday night by showing up in the locker room before the Golden Tigers took the field to face Pleasant Grove in the first round of the 5A High School football playoffs.
Kitterman was able to run out on the field with his teammates and joined his fellow team captains on the field for the coin toss.
“It was a blessing,” Kitterman said. “Being able to see everybody’s faces before the game and being able to walk around on the sidelines and talk to all of my friends and teammates was great.
“But you know, I wanted to put on my helmet and my pads and get out there. I wanted to be out there competing and playing next to my friends.”
Kitterman’s mother said she still gets anxiety when she recounts the events of Sept. 26 when her son was seriously injured while riding four-wheelers with his friends.
“I got a call just after midnight and found out that he had been hurt,” she said. “The Air-Evac made the difference, and I’m grateful that he was able to be transported like that.
“We found out he was going to Huntsville Hospital and we got in the car and drove as fast as we could to get there.”
Austin was in serious condition mainly due to bleeding in his brain caused by the skull fracture he had suffered and the skull fragments that had gone into his brain.
“They wouldn’t let me see him when we first got there and that’s when I knew it was serious,” she said. “I just prayed for everyone—I prayed for the doctors, the nurses, and the surgeons.”
Meanwhile, word of the accident had spread around Russellville and the surrounding communities. Prayer vigils were organized around the region including one at Russellville’s football stadium.
“We were swarmed by support from the community and the whole community just rallied around Austin and us,” she said. “We are so thankful for the support. It’s hard to put into words.”
Vicki Kitterman said there were over 200 people that showed up to the hospital on the first night.
“The support and the prayers that were sent up by the community is what got us through everything,” she said. “The impact that this accident has had is amazing. There have been letters and messages sent to Austin and his family from all over the place. Rick and Bubba even talked about it on their show.
“The support from everyone has been overwhelming and great. I’ve told Austin that we just have to remember that God’s plan is bigger than our plan and we just have to go with it.”
As far as Austin’s future goes, his mother is cautious but optimistic as well.
“He has been ahead of schedule in everything he has been doing as far as rehab goes since the injury,” she said. “He did really well with the in-patient therapy and now he’s going to be in this day therapy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for a total of four weeks.
“The doctors told us no contact sports for six months, but he has already been talking to me about baseball season coming up,” she said. “We’ve already gone ahead and ordered everything for baseball season.”
The doctors told Kitterman and his family that they will have to sign off on him to be cleared to play any sport and his skull will have to fully heal.
“Austin has dreamed of playing ball in college since he was eight or nine years old so we’re not ruling anything out yet,” she said.
And even though Austin might be preparing for and anxious for baseball season to start, he is trying to live in the moment and appreciate everything that has transpired in the past six weeks.
“Our football team went through a lot this season, and I try and look at things like that—like how we handled that,” Kitterman said.