Monthly Archives: July 2012

Gaylord gave me hope and helped me have a second chance.

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ImageSO, incase you haven’t gotten it yet. I LOVE CYCLING.  I also love giving.  Cycling + giving back = Joy.

I have had many organizations aid in bringing me this far.  One of them was Gaylord Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.   When I was about to be discharged, I knew when I got back home I had another solid year or more of surgeries and medical treatments.  This equated to the potential for serious depression and anger.  As one who studied psychology in college, worked as an EMT, and spent years in the non profit sector doing social service, I knew the best way to get out of my own head was to help others.  When we help others, we help ourselves.

I spent close to two months of my life as an inpatient at Gaylord. It was TOUGH. I was in a bed 22 hours a day, had four to five hours of wound care a day, daily shots, IV treatments, 1-2 hours a day out of bed in physical or occupational therapy with a wheel chair, catheter bag, wound vac, and heart rate machine attached to me.. spent countless tears in there.. and also received HUNDREDS of hugs by caring nurses, doctors, and staff. Learned what “patience” is supposed to be like when given care in the medical field.. always had a sympathetic touch, always had staff that believed in me, laughed with me, cried with me, and challenged me. Every night my husband would spend at my side.. they treated him like he was my extension (of which he is), I was admitted into Gaylord after almost two months at Yale. They transported me in an ambulance and wheeled me into the room. I was hoisted onto my hospital bed by three people. The first week I simply screamed and cried in pain and fear as the last month of my life was simply gone. One of the PT staff looked at me and said, “You are going to walk out of here, Do you believe me?”. I looked down at my broken and ripped open body and sobbed harder..What sort of mean woman was she to tease me? My head nurse Tina would come in and give it to me straight, “You will fight this, your a fighter to even be alive.. but this will be the toughest and longest fight of your life”. Well, three months after I was resuscitated TWICE I Did walk out of that hospital.. and made it home for Christmas. They promised me they would do whatever it took. When I came home, Gaylord had my home wound nurse set and ready to care for me, along with my PT and OT staff.

On December 16th, I told my nurse at Gaylord my scheme.  She smiled and said, “Sounds Awesome. I want you to meet Tara Knapp and Todd Munn”.  Tara is the Vice President of Development and Todd is the Director of the Sports Association at Gaylord. When the entered my room, I was embarrassed to speak with Gaylord Admin while I still had a catheter, a beeping wound vac, and bed head.  I introduced myself and asked if we could orchestrate a cycling tour.  They listened carefully as I explained my passion for cycling, my desire to give back.. and my hope to never stop advocating for the rights and education of cyclists.  Todd went on to explain the adaptive sports program.  I learned of the free clinics they offered to people with disabilities which included cycling, kayaking, and more.. This was right up my alley.

Since I had recently been let go with my employer due to the accident, I was heart sick and needed to “work” as much as I could, when I could.  Work equates to volunteering in between naps, wound changes, appointments, and therapy.  Regardless, taking on the cycling tour was a dream come true.

After much consideration, we began seeking places “off road” as I was run over “On the road”.  CT is home to some crazy drivers, fast paced society, and not the most environmentally friendly place Ive ever lived, but it does have some gorgeous fast, flat, PAVED trail systems… You can take them from New Haven into Mass and only be on main roads 10% of the time.  AWESOME.

Tara and I began having planning meetings at my home once a month to establish all the needed components and began seeking sponsors.. I decided to go for low amounts of sponsorship donations and share my story.. This seemed to work 🙂

Our current financial and on ground support sponsors include: Devils Gear cycling shop in New Haven Image and Jamis Bicycles (of which was the bike I was riding when run over by a freight truck, and Im happy to report her kick ass frame is still intact). Image Our sponsors for donations and support include Tifosi Sunglasses, and more.. We are hoping Zanes will still come through (hint) as they mentioned wanting to donate items.. and even Dunkin Donuts, Pea Pod, Giro, Diageo, and others.  We are also still looking for a t-shirt sponsor.

Those who want to raise additional funds and help us reach our goal of $ 10,000.00 can win some pretty fantastic prizes.. and the “know” that they helped Gaylord purchase three new adaptive bikes for people with disabilities.

Help me, help Gaylord give the gift of healing and health to others. You won’t regret it, and I promise you will have fun and meet some of the best souls on earth. http://www.gaylord.org/Home/WhyGaylord/SportsAssociation/SportsAssociationEvents.aspx

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— Oh, and as a foot note.. I am volunteering for all of this.. No, Im not getting paid.. So SSDI, I still hope you come through with benefits.. Thank you.

With peace and chain grease,

Colleen

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Rebuilding the Temple

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According to Websters Dictionary-

any place or object regarded as a shrine where God makes himself present, esp the body of a person who has been sanctified or saved by grace
a building regarded as the focus of an activity, interest, or practice
I am here by the grace of God. The hands of many skilled surgeons, dozens of  selfless donations of blood, hundreds of health care workers, and the love of so many.  I have been deemed an “Unexpected Survivor” by the lead Trauma Surgeon at Yale.  My body is a temple.
When I think of a temple, I also think of a quiet place of strength, and authenticity.  A place where you can be vulnerable and seek truth.  A place where you search deep within the walls of your being to find strength.
As we approach the ten month mark, many have asked me how things are going during the “rebuilding process”.  I have participated in several foot races (of which I have walked), rode my bike five times, been to the gym, and also had more surgeries, more procedures, physical therapy twice a week, much PTSD therapy, and embraced unconditional love from my husband.  I have also had the privilege of working with the Red Cross, and volunteering with Gaylord.
This week I return to my “quarterback”, Dr. Kaplan- who is the head trauma surgeon.  We will discuss my next series of surgeries, and establish the timeline.
Per my surgeons, as long as I am able to get exercise without compromising the integrity of the healing process.. Im given the green flag.. So with every activity, I “check in”.    Thankfully, they get my stubbornness and resilience, and are good at putting their foot down when necessary.
SO, I thought I would share a list with you of my upcoming surgeries as we rebuild this temple which houses my soul.
1.  Removing Bone mass- As your aware, my pelvis broke into TWO clean pieces. This was the main reason why I bled out.  Our pelvis not only support our major organs, but also contain blood vessels.  When the pelvis is broken in half, a person becomes critical FAST.. with bleeding out and internal damage also comes metabolic acidosis, and other goodies.. Another side effect is the body tries to heal itself by creating more calcium and attempting to deposit it in the region needed.  This is great, only the calcium deposits aren’t always given good signs denoting where to make themselves at home and therefore can form awful growths in places that aren’t “ideal”.
For me, those places are: My left hip bone. It was ripped through my skin (as was my right) however the front of the hip bone became the new home to calcium deposits the size of a human fist.. The other location was inside my left groin region.  I have a mass of bone that is the size of a silver dollar which protrudes.. Not comfortable.  Both of these bone mass locations will be removed.  The hip mass will then be radiated for two months to make sure no new calcium forms.  Im left with two 3.5 inch titanium screws in my pelvis and some wires.
2. Hip correction surgery.  My left leg was shredded all the way above my hip. It was so badly destroyed that it could have been amputated.   My leg was saved, however it lost half of the muscle along the left side from the knee up and over two feet of skin at a depth down to my bone.  SO, they put a wound vac on and did multiple reparative surgeries..  As my leg healed in, my right butt cheek pulled forward into my side hip bone.  Thus leaving my balance off incredibly when I walk and excessive pain.  SO, the surgeons will make an incision along my hip and literally pull and reattach my butt and muscles back in place where they should be.
3. Abdominal surgery- My abdomen had the front and back tires of a freight truck roll over it.  Therefore it got trashed.. What Im left with is excessive scarring both externally and internally from my intestines being damaged, taken apart, then put back together.. and some damage to my spleen and stomach.  Although the skin has grown beautifully back together, it has no pores in it.. therefore it not only doesn’t breathe, but it is very tight, swollen, and fragile.  The skin rips back open often and hurts. The surgeon will place balloon expanders under my breasts and “grow” the skin that wasn’t affected by inflating it with saline over a month.. he will them remove the new skin, stretch the stretched skin over it and tack it down.
4. Leg Surgery- My leg still has another foot of skin to grow.  It is healing well. It is very very tight and also lacks pores.  Because of this, it overheats, rips open, and I struggle to walk normally.. extending my leg straight back in a stride position is very difficult because the skin is so tight.. This is why biking is less painful because my legs are staying angled and bent.  He will put expanders under the original skin, expand with saline over 1.5 months, remove all new skin (which will now provide an anchor and is rich with new vessels and dermal layers), and then tack the stretched skin over the affected area.
5. Coccyx/buttocks surgery- When I was dragged, my seat along with the pavement literally ripped a saucer size hole in the crack of my tookus.  I was ripped open all the way to my coccyx bone (They said when they laid me on the OR table, they could look right up at the bones). **Gross**.  Thankfully the giant hole in my butt is now flapped and healed, however my lower back and buttocks are not attached to the bones.. so he will need to make a incision along the coccyx bone, open a flap and sew me from the inside out.
 
6.  Vena Cava Removal- We aren’t sure this one can be completed… Due to the duration of time after all surgeries are completed. I had a filter placed outside my heart when I was critical because I had so much blood given in such a fast amount of time.. I was at high risk of blood clots.  The vascular surgeon said that leaving it in could be dangerous since I have Cryoglobulenemia which is a blood disorder and I might get clots lodged in the filter not allowing veinous return..
They remove this through the carotid artery.
So, thats what I have left to do before I can be released from medical care and move on… In the meantime, I am trying to maintain my “temple” as it heals.. and keep it as strong and healthy as possible in preparations for the various surgeries I have ahead.
Thank you for your love.  Thank you for your support.  Thank you for your prayers.
With a persevering heart,
Colleen Kelly Alexander

Contemplation, seeking change, and wanting resolve.

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The message was straightforward,

“Colleen – I will be down in Guilford this weekend, and hope to place a ghost bike in your honor at the spot where you were hit, with your approval, of course. Please let me know what you think. Perhaps we can get Julia to join us. Please let me know what you think.
I love to read your stories. Keep it up”.
Regards- X.

The beauty of Facebook is the connections it allows.  Two of the organizers for Ghost Bikes, CT friended me on Facebook after the accident.  Ghost Bikes is an international program, Im not going to elaborate on it to much- however you can check out the website here: www.ghostbikes.org 

I thought for a while about the reason behind the movement, and the impact it has had thus far in CT alone.  I also thought about the strong conviction the two men that organize Ghost bikes in CT have for safe roadways, and decreasing fatalities.  Those reasons compiled with my strong desire to make sure what happened to me NEVER happens to anyone else budged me towards the “Yes, I will do it”.  Further contemplation provoked a myriad of emotions.. “I’m not dead”, “Will this be an insult to those that are dead?”, “How will the community react?”, “Will this move us forward or backward?”, and then I came towards the resolve that I am angry.  I am not angry because I have massive injuries, I am not angry because I have massive pain, I’m not even angry because I can’t race anymore or do century rides.. No, I’m angry because this could have been avoided.  I am angry because when we look at our human society REALLY well.. we can start to establish trends.. common threads if you will.  Dead cyclists? Cause of death? Man made.  Dead soldier? cause of death? man-made. Dead driver in-car, child, mother, father? Man made.

When I was at the Achilles event in Central Park a few weeks ago I had the honor of walking among hundreds of other “athletes” those who had undergone extreme circumstance.. some with missing legs, arms, brain injuries, severe traumas, major disease.. They all fought hard and completed the five-mile endurance walk.. why? because they could. At the finish, I met Trisha Mueller who is the Central Park Jogger.. an incredible woman who back in the 80s was savagely beaten, raped, and left for dead.  She was an athlete, and when she awoke from her coma she fought HARD, and now she ran with a reconstructed eye and some residual brain damage issues. I was honored to hug her.. adored the strength and courage of so many there, but I was also angry.  Most of these people did not have to go through what they went through.

As a society we are becoming more and more dead to reality.  We don’t want to face it. If its uncomfortable we turn it off.. unless it’s a movie or television show where we know its acting and we can disassociate. How can we change the future if we can’t change the past? Well, we can’t.

History repeats itself, and gets uglier every time we turn our backs and ride the hypothetical road of life.

So, I come back in my pedal rotation to the Ghost bike. Sunday my heart sank as this spray painted white bike was unloaded from the car.  I stood there with affliction and drive. Most people are removed from this earth when the ghost bikes are placed.. I felt I had the opportunity to be a voice for them.. and I did.  Cyclists have a lot of responsibility on the road.. they are not just “victims to the roads”, they should be empowered and take ownership just like anyone else on the road ways.. they need to take responsibility.  As I stood there reading, sharing, and thanking others.. countless cyclists passed by.. many not even looking as they pulled out onto Route One.  Some riding far too fast and doubled up on Route one. A few cyclists were not even wearing helmets.  This infuriates me.  Cyclists can give others cyclists a bad name as much as drivers can.. the “woman drivers are the worst” comment frustrates the hell out of me.   The woman ambulance driver who drove me to Yale in record time was a rock star.

SO, the bike is there.  It isn’t chained, its held on with plastic straps.. May it be an awareness piece for everyone.. for drivers to slow down and stop and stop signs.. and for cyclists to be aware, responsible, and educated.  Cyclists have rights on our roadways.  Cars have rights on our roadways AND none are without the need for accountability, and respect.

With perseverance and hope,

Colleen  

http://madison-ct.patch.com/articles/at-the-scene-of-horrific-accident-two-heroes-their-inspiration-and-a-ghost-bike#photo-10668053