|Captain Jeff Bathiany, former Fort Thomas resident|
Maybe you grew up with Jeff Bathiany, a 1973 Highlands High School graduate. Maybe you swam with him or played golf with him at Highlands Country Club. Maybe you coached his Knothole team or cheered from the stands while watching him kick a field goal against Dixie with 16 seconds left.
Or maybe you remember his parents, Bert, who owned Briar Cliffe Pharmacy at 906 N. Fort Thomas Ave., and Delores, hosting fundraisers for him—bake sales and dances—to fund the three years of training Bathiany endured with a dream to participate in the 1984 Summer Olympic Men's Decathlon.
Maybe you saw the 1984 documentary "Stop It I Can't," produced by the Tourette Syndrome Association with the help of William Shatner, featuring many individuals with Tourette's, including Bathiany.
Or maybe, more recently, you were a passenger on Newport Aquarium's Ride the Ducks in 2007 or 2008—and Bathiany was your captain.
Today Bathiany's muscles are dying. Today, he needs your help.
"My experience growing up in Fort Thomas was incredible," Bathiany says. "It was the best childhood I could have ever hoped for. I loved the people in Fort Thomas. It was a wonderful place to grow up."
After graduating from University of Kentucky, Bathiany moved to Huntington Beach, Calif., where the weather served him better while training 12 hours a day for the 1984 Olympics. Bathiany hurt his back throwing the javelin only two months prior to the games—he was unable to participate.
So in 1984, Bathiany had the idea of converting a bread truck into a muscle truck—a mobile gymnasium, designed to sculpt bodies in Southern California. It was a hit. From 1985 to 2000 Bathiany worked as a personal fitness trainer, buying 53-foot trucks and fitting them with workout equipment.
Bathiany then moved back east, buying a houseboat and living on the Ohio River in Dayton, Ky. Eventually he decided to take his boat to Florida, and in the course of three weeks, navigating rivers along with his dog, he landed in Clearwater Beach. Bathiany got his captain's license and began offering fishing tours.
As owner/captain of Banana Boat Tours Bathiany owned a charter business on the Ohio River that featured a 65-foot dinner boat, 30-foot Cobalt ski boat and a 25-foot pontoon boat. In Florida he provided trips in ocean kayaks through the mangroves and tidal creeks of the Great White Heron Wildlife Refuge.
In 2007 Newport Aquarium hired Bathiany to help set up the first Ride the Ducks season, featuring amphibious boats on the Ohio River. For two seasons Bathiany helped train new captains and guides, while serving as a parasail captain in Treasure Island, Fla., during the winter.
From 2008 to 2011 Bathiany served as a fishing/snorkel captain on one of Sea Dog Charters' Marathon, Fla., boats.
|Bathiany's chihuahua Nina.|
Today Bathiany spends five months out of every year in Missouri as the Lewis and Clark Riverboat captain—he spends the rest of his time in Florida. "Just being out on the water calms people down," Bathiany says. "They have a wonderful time. Kids love to play with my dog. It's beautiful on the Missouri River—there's nothing like it."
Through it all—his childhood, his years as an athlete and then personal trainer, and his years spent on boats, Bathiany has lived with Tourette's Syndrome (TS). As such, he has spent much of his life raising awareness about TS.
Bathiany's uncontrollable body movements, called tics, began when he was 7 years old. "Fifty years of repetitive head jerking has caused severe foramina and central nerve canal stenosis," he says. "I figured it out—it's only 300 million times that I've jerked my head around that it shouldn't have been done." As a result, Bathiany has bone spurs pressing and pinching his nerves so severely that certain signals aren't reaching his arms and his hands. His muscles are dying. "I have lost 50 percent of my strength and 25 pounds of muscle weight."
An accident three years ago has made things worse. Bathiany was standing on a ladder that collapsed. He fell seven feet, landing on his hands.
Physical work is no longer possible. But surgery will help. "Several surgeons have told me if I do not get surgery, cervical decompression and two disc replacements, I will totally lose the use of my hands and be disabled."
Bathiany is seeking $70,000 via a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for his surgery.
In the meantime, Bathiany will continue raising awareness about TS and serving as a boat captain, along with his chihuahua Nina. "She goes on the boat with me everyday and all the kids love t ocome in the pilot house and pet her," Bathiany says. "Everyone loves her."
As do so many people who have had the pleasure of meeting Bathiany. "I just need a little help, from a lot of people," he says.
To give, you can visit his Give Forward page here or send a check directly to:
Dakota Community Bank & Trust
P.O. Box 609
Mandan, ND 58554