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Randy's Story
Randy Bertisch was born to act. He loves "the business" and began his professional career when he was eleven years old. At fifteen, he founded his own video production company and, upon graduation from high school, was accepted to USC's BFA program.

Some people go through most of their lives before discovering their real niche, but Randy was one of the lucky ones. He knew as a young boy the path he wanted his professional life to follow. He had proven his talent, creativity and drive, appearing in numerous episodes of soaps and television series such as "Fame," "Our House," "Capitol," and "As the World Turns" as well as a host of national television commercials, industrials and voiceovers.

He had always been energetic, loving, bright, enthusiastic, and incredibly determined. An extremely positive thinker, he accomplished what he set out to do without fail and rarely took "No" for an answer. When he would strive for a goal, NOTHING could stop him.

Something almost did on July 26, 1988, as Randy was returning home after just having taped a commercial voiceover. He was twenty-four years old. An out-of-control dump truck loaded with concrete shot out of a long, steep, private driveway at a blind intersection the second Randy was passing by. He was doing nothing wrong.

Deep in a coma and seizing, Randy was airlifted to St. Joseph's Trauma Center where he was expected to die. His parents were actually told to get ready to lose their son in the next two hours and to pray for death, since the only alternative was a vegetative, comatose state for the rest of his life. He had sustained severe injuries throughout his brain and brainstem. Nurses and doctors all told the family exactly the same thing. "Severe pontine hemorrhage? They don't survive. They never wake up!"

Well, those doctors didn't know with whom they were dealing. They didn't believe his friends and family who told them, "You don't know Randy! He's a fighter. He won't give up. He will not die or lie around in a coma while his life passes him by. He comes through when others can't. He's coming back!!!"

He did, thank God! With the support of an unbelievable number of loving friends and a devoted family, Randy has been fighting his way back since he gradually began waking from his coma in September of '88. When he first "came out," he couldn't move, speak or communicate in any way. After six months in the hospital, one year in day treatment, thousands of physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions, and countless surgical procedures, he has achieved remarkable improvement. Left with many impairments including left-side hemiplegia, lack of balance, double vision, slurred speech, and cognitive deficits, Randy still perseveres!

To this day, Randy continues his physical therapy and has never veered from his most important goal - to walk. During his therapy sessions, he walks the length of a long hallway with the use of only a quad cane. He is still working very hard to "come back!"

Life is so difficult for this man, but he remains undaunted. Randy shows unbelievable determination, strength and courage in all that he does. He has always been a unique and special person. His talents are many, and he's got a heart of gold. He will never give up until he has regained most of what he has lost. Many feel that goal is unattainable. They are the people who don't know Randy.

Because of his lifelong love of children and as a way of "giving back," Randy has founded Challenged America, a nonprofit organization striving to improve the lives of our nation's physically and developmentally challenged youth. Randy is happy to have discovered an area where he feels he can be of value and really make a difference. His hope is that Challenged America will be able to grant financial assistance to many disadvantaged, challenged children and that the story of his fight to reclaim his life will serve as an inspiration to others who are dealing with similar circumstances.

Project Background - The Documentary

When Randy Bertisch began waking from his coma in September of 1988, it was felt that something extraordinary was taking place. The nurses were calling him their "miracle baby," and doctors and therapists were stopping in to see if what they had heard was true! You see, just six weeks earlier, Randy's family had been told he would surely die within hours from injuries sustained when his car was struck by an out-of-control dump truck and that, should he survive, there was absolutely no possibility of his ever regaining consciousness. They were told to pray for death.

Randy's friends and family knew he would never give up. With his energy and determination, there had been nothing he couldn't accomplish. The hospital staff assured everyone they were holding out false hope.

It's only in the movies that someone waking from a coma looks around, asks what he's doing there, jumps out of bed, and goes home. It doesn't work that way in real life. When Randy first showed signs of waking from his coma, it was obvious that he would have to fight his way back every step of the way. He couldn't speak, focus his attention, or make any voluntary movements.

Those closest to Randy were convinced that, once fully conscious, he would want to know everything. They felt he should be able to see his achievements as he inched his way back to them. Recovery from traumatic brain injury is extremely slow and difficult. They knew that Randy's having a record of his amazing progress could prove very valuable, should he become discouraged during the struggle that lay ahead.

From then on, everything possible was done to record Randy's physical and cognitive improvement as well as document all the constant and creative involvement of his friends. A sign-in book was placed in his room in which his many visitors wrote him notes. Hundreds of snapshots and many hours of videotape marked each accomplishment, while everyone joked about making a documentary. Nine years later, Randy and his friend, Stuart, combined the recovery footage with present-day interviews to produce "GIANT STEPS, The Randy J Bertisch Story." Their hope is that the account of Randy's fight to reclaim his life will serve as an inspiration to others having to face similar challenges. Their message is, "Never give up!!" This documentary demonstrates that there is hope past prognosis!

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