Oklahoma car accident survivor inspires new jewelry line


TULSA, Okla. (AP) — When she started physical therapy two summers ago, Izzy Kitterman could barely move her arms and needed a machine to pump oxygen to her lungs through a tube sticking into her neck.

But in the long hours of grueling therapy sessions, week after week, month after month, she clung to a favorite Bible verse.

Psalm 46:5. "God is within her. She will not fall."

It became a sort of personal motto.

"For me and for my whole family, really," Kitterman, now 15, told the Tulsa World.

She was coming home to Jenks after a summer outing at Turner Falls when traffic backed up at a construction site near Purcell on July 17, 2017. A truck came to a stop on Interstate 35. And 40-year-old Erin Van Horn, who was driving an SUV with six children inside, apparently didn't see it.

Van Horn died along with her 10-year-old son, Zac Van Horn, and two of Kitterman's siblings, while Van Horn's daughters, Lauren and Samantha, survived with less-severe injuries.

Kitterman remembers waking up in the car unable to feel anything from the neck down, but the crash itself and the circumstances leading up to it remain a blank, she recently said.

A helicopter took her to a hospital in Oklahoma City, where she recuperated for a month before beginning therapy at Children's Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany. By the time she came home to Jenks, not only was Kitterman breathing on her own, but she helped push her wheelchair up the driveway.

Rehab continued three days a week at a Dallas facility called React, which specializes in neurological recovery. But she couldn't keep doing it, Kitterman says. For one thing, the therapy was costing $70,000 a year, according to previous media reports. But it was also keeping Kitterman away from home half the week while going to school only on Monday and Fridays.

"I wanted to be around my friends," she says. "I just wanted to be able to hang out more often."

Starting this fall as a sophomore at Jenks High School, she will attend classes full-time while therapists will come to her house five days a week. And to help pay for the home visits, The Vintage Pearl recently introduced a line of jewelry that Kitterman helped design.

Each necklace comes with a quote that Kitterman chose, including Psalm 46:5.

"I started with the Bible verse and then chose other quotes with kind of the same theme," she said. "They were just quotes that I thought were inspiring and that I thought kind of fit with my situation."

One quote seems directed toward the siblings she lost: her brother, 11-year-old Beck Kitterman, and stepsister, 13-year-old Elizabeth "Lizzy" Edwards.

"Goodbyes are not forever," it says. "Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I'll miss you until we meet again."

On sale now, the necklaces in the Izzy K Collection retail for $24 to $32, with Kitterman's family receiving half the proceeds. The owners of The Vintage Pearl, a local jewelry company, have a daughter who played soccer with Kitterman before the car crash.

"I wanted to make everything look really cute so people would want to buy them and wear them even if it wasn't going to help my family," Kitterman said. "But I hope people buy them because it really will help my family a lot."


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