“I Got Run Over By a Truck and Died”, Here’s What Happened 10 Months Later

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It seems like when everything is going well we just wait for other shoe to drop because that’s how life tends to be. We can have it all then lose everything overnight. However what separates those who end up on top from those who stay at the bottom could come down from how they respond to the biggest obstacles, including death itself.

Kelly Alexander clinically died after being a life long athlete. But how she overcame death rewrote her story.

From the book Gratitude in Motion as Seen on Reader’s Digest.

Right When Everything Was Going Well

It was meant to be beautiful morning for longtime athlete Colleen Kelly Alexander as she rode her bike home from work. She thought she had already gotten through the worst of it, having survived both a diagnosis of lupus and brain surgery.

truck flipped upside down on road
Stephen Tafra / Unsplash
Stephen Tafra / Unsplash

She now was married to the love of her life with whom she shared a passion for a fulfilling career. They were even trying to have a baby.

Life Can Be Gone In An Instant

The plan for that day was for Colleen to meet up with he a friend for a bike ride while her husband Sean was at work. However, she would never make it to her plans. Although it all must have happened so fast, Colleen still remembers the details of what happened that day:

Sean slept in the hospital and took on the role of Colleen's advocate.
COURTESY COLLEEN KELLY ALEXANDER / Reader’s Digest
COURTESY COLLEEN KELLY ALEXANDER / Reader’s Digest

“As I settled into the right-hand lane of a busy avenue, a freight truck turned in my direction from a side street. He slowed at the corner. We made eye contact. Then, for reasons I’ll never know, he accelerated.

There was nothing I could do but scream. The giant truck knocked me down onto my left side; my legs got tangled up with my bike. I heard snapping and grinding as his front tires drove over me. I felt my insides cracking when his back tires did the same.”

Still Alive But Barely

Despite being in shock, Colleen remembers people rushing to her side and screaming that she was alive. She may have been alive to much of everyone’s surprise but barely. Colleen’s description of her injuries is quite graphic, so be cautious as you read her next quote:

xray of chest with screws
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triathloninspires

“I raised my head just enough to see something bright white and yellow protruding from my leg: bone, tendons, and fatty cells. The skin had peeled right off most of the lower half of my body, along with my clothing. There wasn’t any normal flesh to see. My abdomen was opened up, and I was bleeding out.”

Flatlined Not Once But Twice

Within twenty minutes Colleen was rushed to the emergency room where for eight straight hours, she kept dying…quite literally.

heart monitor in hospital room
maxim tolchinskiy / Unsplash
maxim tolchinskiy / Unsplash

Colleen flatlined not just once but several times, each time requiring someone to perform CPR to pull her back into our world as her body kept trying to give up and move on to the next. It took so long that the doctors had to take rotations because just keeping her alive was existing. At the same time, because her body was opened up with serious wounds, a trauma team was carefully picking the gravel and debris out of her body.

Trying To Beat All Odds

It seemed like all odds were stacked against her survival. The doctors decide to resort to drastic measures and place Collee in an induced coma. This was meant to slow down her brain function and reduce swelling in the hopes of preventing or lessening brain damage.

Collee in hospital bed connected to tubes unconscious
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triathloninspires

Colleen, was in and out of surgery several times. The pain never subsided. The most helpless part was that she couldn’t even relay how she felt at the time: “I saw a bright light and masked faces hovering over me. I remember my chest rising and falling, but I couldn’t take a breath. As I woke, the pain hit hard, but I couldn’t move or communicate no matter how hard I tried.”

Trapped Between Life And Death

Collee highlights that there is often a misunderstanding when it comes to induced comas. People often think that they make you completely unconscious so you lose a sense of your surroundings. However, Colleen could see and hear everything and it felt like she imprisoned in her own body.

colleen wrapped in blanket in photoshoot
ckellyalexander / Instagram
ckellyalexander / Instagram

“For weeks after the trauma, I felt like I was locked in a nightmare, imprisoned in my body. Sometimes I was unconscious, but other times I existed in a state that has no easy comparison.

I couldn’t focus on anyone or anything, but I could hear sounds and feel sensations. I was so hot all the time that it felt as if my body were on fire. I began having thoughts that were almost hallucinations about lying in a pool of water.A medically induced coma can’t take away all the pain—nothing can. The coma just dulls it enough so that you don’t actually die from the shock of it all.”

Not Knwig if She’d Ever Walk Again

The first days after the accident may have been the most traumatic but the road to recovery afterward was just as painful. It took time for Colleen’s body to stabilize enough for her to attempt physical therapy. At first, she couldn’t even walk with a walker because it was too painful. For someone who was once an athlete, this was heartbreaking.

Colleen and her husband take selfie
ckellyalexander / Instagram
ckellyalexander / Instagram

Collee asked her doctors: “Am I ever going to walk normally again?” to which they honestly responded: “We don’t know, but we’re going to work on it.” Despite the limited amount of hope she was given, Colleen was determined to do everything in her power to make it through.

Alive For A Reason

What gave Colleen the power to push through was the certainty that if she had survived, despite the injuries, she was alive for a reason. So she made a choice: “All this wasted emotion feeling miserable for myself needed a direction. The direction I chose was gratitude.

Colleen smiling in sports bra
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triathloninspires

I thought of all the people who had saved my life. The strangers who ran to my side after the truck hit me; the doctors and nurses who brought me back from death more than once; the staff at Gaylord who were doggedly helping me walk again and relearn basic tasks.”

Giving Back To death

It took 78 units of blood, as well as 25 bags of plasma and platelets, from more than 125 people’s donations for Colleen to survive. She didn’t want any of that to go unacknowledged. She felt grateful. She wanted to do something to not only thank them but also honor them.

Colleen smilingin portrait shot
triathloninspires
triathloninspires

“I may not have been able to walk yet, but I could, from my rehab bed, organize a cycling tour to raise money for adaptive bikes for disabled athletes. We ended up raising more than $10,000.”

10 Months Later, She Did The Impossible

With a purpose in mind, Colleen focused on her recovery and the day finally came when pushed herself away from her wheelchair and baby step by baby step distanced herself with her walker. She was walking! She remembers hearing: “You did it, ­Colleen … You did it … all the way across the room!”

Since leaving the hospital, Colleen, shown at the Superhero Half Marathon (left) and with Sean at the Cheshire Half Marathon, has competed in dozens of triathlons and marathons.
COURTESY COLLEEN KELLY ALEXANDER/ Readers Digest
COURTESY COLLEEN KELLY ALEXANDER/ Readers Digest

This was the beginning of a new chapter. Just ten months after she died, Colleen ran the Superhero Half Marathon in New Jersey: “I did it while using a walker, toting a colostomy bag, and dressed as Wonder Woman—cape and all! At the finish line, I was greeted by Sean, who smothered me in kisses.” Since then Coleen has run many races and has even gotten rid of her walker.

From Tragedy Comes Gratitude

Colleen could have never expected how her life would change. What first seemed like a nightmare became a turning point for a life full of success and gratitude: “My injury also made me realize just how lucky I am to have Sean. In the darkest moments of being locked in a coma, his voice soothed me. It does to this day. With each step, I am gratitude in motion.”

colleen's husband kisses her on the cheek
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triathloninspires

Colleen has taken that message and shared it both in a book annd through numerous conferences. She is now a doer, mentor, motivator and staunch advocate for those reaching to achieve their highest purpose.

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Aida Maratova

Aida Maratova is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives