She doesn't remember her wedding under
the stars, her college graduation in May
or the friend who has visited her three
times since she woke from a coma at
Valley Medical Center.
But after nearly dying June 1 in a
head-on collision -- just days after her
honeymoon -- Tara Eichinger Berendes
said she isn't sweating the memories
that have slipped beyond her grasp.
She's ready to make new ones.
Hand-in-hand with her
husband of three months, Josh Berendes,
the Los Gatos newlywed strode out of the
hospital and headed for home Monday,
radiating strength despite the long
recovery ahead of her.
``It makes me so much
more appreciative of people who are
stuck in wheelchairs,'' Berendes, 20,
said of her goal to walk out of the
At first doctors said
she wouldn't make it, so the fact she
walked out of the hospital was another
milestone in the former college
basketball player's astonishing
Berendes and her
husband, who were married just 10 days
before the accident, were on their way
to a new home and life in Colorado when
they were involved in a crash on
Interstate 15 near Salt Lake City.
Berendes escorts his wife, Tara, from
Valley Medical Center on Monday.
She still must wear a special pressure
mask for her burns, below left, but
she's been able to achieve a list of
goals, below right, held by her father,
John Eichinger. Photos by
Joanne Hoyoung Lee - Mercury
The accident killed 28-year-old Thad
Goodman, the father of 3-year-old and
7-month-old daughters who was driving
the car that slammed into the Berendeses.
Josh Berendes, 23, a youth pastor,
suffered moderate injuries, but his wife
received head and other injuries and was
in a coma for six weeks. She was flown
July 2 to San Jose's Valley Medical
Center, where, to everyone's
astonishment, she soon regained
The tragic beginning for this
newlywed couple made national headlines.
People from across the country have
donated to a fund set up to help the
Berendeses, who did not have medical
insurance. To date, an estimated 100,000
people have visited the couple's Web
updated daily by Tara Berendes' father.
The site features photos of the radiant
pair on their wedding day, as well as
links to news stories about the
Doctors say Tara Berendes suffered
some brain damage, but her progress so
far has been excellent. She showed no
obvious signs of cognitive difficulty as
she left the hospital Monday and chatted
easily with reporters.
She remains scarred from the accident
and wears a special pressure mask for
burns on her forehead. She said she
still struggles with short-term memory
loss and can't remember anything that
happened a month before the accident,
including marrying Josh Berendes. But
the San Jose native who has already
experienced the ``in sickness and in
health'' part of the deal and says he
couldn't be more in love.
``We're just happy to be going home,
so we can enjoy being married,'' he said
Monday while rubbing his wife's back
The couple will live in a cottage
behind her grandfather's home in Monte
Sereno, where they were married in a
nearby garden on the evening of May 22.
Tara Berendes will go back to Valley
Medical Center for outpatient therapy
three times a week for several months.
In the meantime, the couple say they
may renew their vows on the beach.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED
To help with medical bills,
donations can be made to the Tara
Eichinger-Berendes Recovery Fund c/o
Wells Fargo Bank, 299 S. Main St.,
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111. For more
information, go to www.tarajosh.com.