Colleen Kelly Alexander has a goal. She wants to be an example. She wants, as she puts it, “to be a light for others.”
To do that, she says, she has a series of challenges to face. First is her physical recovery from the severe injuries she sustained .
Second is figuring out how to pay for that recovery; she will not be returning to work any time soon, so she lost her job and her insurance is due to run out at the end of December. And third is to make sure she keeps up her spirits. She does not want to succumb to despair. And that’s where she’s asking for help.
“I really want prayers,” she said. “And positive energy. My wounds are huge and it’s going to take a long time to heal. I’m trying hard not to get depressed.”
"My husband is my rock"
Kelly Alexander’s partner in her fight to recover is her husband, Sean Alexander. “My husband is my rock,” she says. “And I just want to be a good wife for him.” He has been with her every night since the accident Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011 around 11:45 a.m. near the intersection of the Boston Post Road and Neck Road. Kelly Alexander was initially admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital in critical condition and has since been moved to Gaylord Specialty Healthcare Hospital.
Kelly says she is enormously grateful for her husband’s support. She also has support from other family members who have been visiting her and who have set up a site for her on Caring Bridge. And she wants to thank the people who stopped to help her after the accident. There is one person in particular she wants to thank.
“Right after the accident, there was a woman who got out of her car and she held my head and she hugged me,” Kelly Alexander said. “I just want to reach out to her and tell her that she kept me alive.”
Physical strength and mental tenacity key to recovery
Kelly Alexander’s father, Bill Kelly, says that his daughter is strong. She and her husband used to do triathlons for fun. She recently did a 600-plus-mile fundraising trip on her bike to support the initiatives of PeaceJam Northeast, her employer. Her dad says that after the accident she was let go from her job there as a program coordinator.
The doctors have told Colleen's father that her physical strength and mental tenacity have helped her get this far along in her recovery. “She's an avid sportsperson and she's strong," Kelly said. "They tell us that is what will pull her through."
Kelly Alexander says that is her goal, but that there are times when she is stunned by her transformation from a strong, 36-year-old, happily married, employed, athletic woman to one who is fighting for survival. She worked in Guilford and lives in Clinton and in between those two towns is Madison, where her life was changed in an instant.
“It’s just that, it doesn’t matter how careful you are sometimes. Every day is such a huge gift. You have to be ready, vigilant and aware it could change. No matter how safe and careful you are, things can happen. I’m sitting here in bed in a rehab facility. And I’m scared. I don’t know when I’m going to be normal again. I just don’t want to get depressed about that.”
"I just laid there and prayed to God"
Kelly Alexander’s immediate reaction after the accident was to pray. “I just laid there and prayed to God that I could stay alive and still be a good wife.”
Colleen and Sean met in high school. They dated, went to prom, surfed at the same beaches, and used to love visiting a garden in Daytona Beach, FL, where they would walk and kiss. As with many high school romances, they eventually went their separate ways. Kelly Alexander went on to have another long-term relationship, which then ended. Her girlfriends urged her to take a trip as a way of making a new start. Kelly Alexander settled on a spa and yoga retreat in Costa Rica as an ideal destination.
Around that same time, she logged on to her Facebook account to find a message from Sean Alexander. He was working at the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado. He found out she was going to Costa Rica and, what do you know, he said he was planning to go as well. They met again for the first time in 17 years at a small airport in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, a scenic destination renowned for its beaches and surfing.
Mutual attraction immediately rekindled, followed by agreement to be friends first
Their mutual attraction was immediately rekindled, but the couple resolved to take it slowly, to be friends first and get to know each other again. They spent a lot of time talking and the chemistry between them grew. They spent some time together and some time on their own and agreed to meet later in the trip in a little surfing town. When Kelly Alexander got dropped off, the taxi driver accidently drove over her foot. Twice. Instead of a fun evening on the town, Alexander whisked her away to a hospital where he had to pretend to be her brother so he could come in with her.
They spent the rest of the trip together, and fell in love. When they got back home, she returned to where she was living in Vermont and he returned to his home in Colorado and they visited each other every other month. “Then we just couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “Our hearts were so big.”
Alexander proposed while they were on a trip to Daytona Beach, in the same location where they went to prom together. “He proposed to me in the gardens,” Kelly Alexander says. “We got married on the beach where we used to play and surf together.”
"I don't want this to be for nothing"
Kelly Alexander says it's memories like that that help keep her going. And she welcomes any support people are willing to provide.
“It’s going to be a long road to recovery. I can’t even walk right now,” she said. “I have no skin on my leg. I’m going to need grafts and lots of surgeries, I’m sure. It’s just a matter of staying positive. And I’m thinking maybe God put me through this for a reason. I want to be a light for others."
"I don’t want this to be for nothing,” she added.
How you can help, and about that truck driver
Kelly Alexander’s dad, Bill Kelly, says people can provide help and support to his daughter through the Caring Bridge site created by Kelly Alexander's cousin, Wayne Kelly.
Her dad had one other thing to say. About the truck driver ...
"He's got to be going through something too," he said. "We as a family are praying for the driver and his family."
About this column: Around Town is an occasional column about what's going on around Madison. If you have an idea for a column, or would like to write one, please let us know! Contact Pem at firstname.lastname@example.org.