Owensboro veteran turns to poetry after life-changing motorcycle accident

June 14, 2020 | 12:09 am

Updated June 14, 2020 | 12:32 pm

Photo by Ngan Ho

Owensboro native Nick Catinna  comes from a family line of military members. That’s why he ditched an office job in his late 20s and joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 2012.

Within a month of duty, Catinna developed stress that got worse over time. Some of the things he witnessed on the search and rescue missions haunted him.

Nick’s mother, Jan, said he was ultimately discharged honorably three years later and became disillusioned after transitioning back to a desk job.

His life changed forever on the night of Labor Day 2018, when Nick had motorcycle crash in Daytona Beach — eventually leading him on a path that now including the upcoming release of his first book.

“He was going 110 in a 25-mile speed limit, and he lost complete control of the bike and had a near-death accident,” Jan said.

Nick’s motorcycle broke into three pieces, and he was in a coma for months. The crash also left him wheelchair-bound, and his speech is slurred.

During his physical and mental recovery process through programs from Veteran Affairs, Nick turned to creative arts. He said once he lost his ability to do daily tasks, he started to focus on his writing. It helped relieve his pain and it was the one thing he could still do by himself.

“I’ve always written poetry. I’ve written poetry even before my accident. But after my accident, it just really fell onto me,” he said. “I can’t really speak that well so I like writing it through poetry. … I used to think a lot about what I was going to write, and then I hit my head really hard and now I write with my heart.

Nick has written approximately 700 poems and is looking to publish his first book on Amazon and Kindle in the coming weeks. Owensboro Art Guild Vice President Sarah Wilson is the illustrator for the book.

“When Nick asked if I would do the illustrations for his book, I was ecstatic and honored he would choose my work to express his poems with art,” Wilson said. “Nick and I already connected on a spiritual level so his work flowed very well with my style. It was as if everything had just fallen into place.”

One of Catinna’s poem “Prayer” was selected by Karen Pence to be displayed on John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Catinna has won awards for several of his poems and has been paid to read his poetry at the Stratz Performing Arts Center in Tampa, Fla., as part of the VA’s Creative Arts Festival.

He’s looking to move forward with writing, inspirational speaking and other art engagements. Jan said she’s grateful her son is not only alive, but also thriving in his alternative path.

“I am so blessed to have him here with me because they told us he was not going to live, and he not only has defied that but he has got a heart of gold and a great head on his shoulders,” Jan said. “I’m just so proud of how far he has come.”

June 14, 2020 | 12:09 am

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