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Tuesday, January 17th, 2006 -- 9:44 AM

Gary Natvig says he?s savoring every minute of life after cheating death in a May 2005 motorcycle accident.

Natvig, 56, was riding from his home in Waukesha to his niece?s high school graduation in Neillsville when he ?blacked out? just south of Neillsville on Highway 73.

"They say I just slumped over and the bike went off the road," Natvig says. "I was doing 55- to 60-miles per hour. I stayed on the bike for three flips, but there was a total of five flips."

Natvig doesn?t remember anything about the accident ? in fact, Natvig says he doesn?t remember anything of the 10- to 15-miles from refueling in Pittsville to the scene of the accident - but, he?s since learned of the severity of his injuries.

"I had two collapsed lungs, I had nine broken ribs, I had three different brain injuries, my back was broken in three places, I had a lacerated liver and my spleen was ruptured," Natvig says.

Listed in critical condition, Natvig spent three weeks in an induced coma. Doctors didn?t think he?d survive, but as each day passed, his odds improved; finally, he was released from the hospital in July.

"I went from 'not making it at all' to 'becoming a vegetable' and then they said that I would probably make it, but I'd be in a nursing home the rest of my life," Natvig recalls. "But it just kept on going to almost a full recovery."

Amazingly, Natvig has few lasting affects from the severe trauma: he?s got sore shoulders ? probably due to the titanium rods in his back ? but he walks without a cane, and he suffered no brain damage, despite not wearing a helmet.

"I had to pass a neuro-psych test. They had to count my marbles -- I guess I got them all," Natvig jokes.

Natvig, an electrician, went back to work full-time on January 1st. He says he now appreciates his life more and is savoring every minute of it.

He credits emergency responders and the staffs of Memorial Medical Center in Neillsville, the Marshfield Clinic and St. Joseph?s Hospital in Marshfield with saving his life.

More (.pdf): [url=http://www.mmcneillsville.com/index_files/kking.pdf]http://www.mmcneillsville.com/index_files/kking.pdf[/url]

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