Colleen Kelly Alexander
– Triathlete, and Motivational Speaker –
“Triathlons push the boundaries of the human spirit and allow us to celebrate what we are capable of achieving!”
Colleen’s young adulthood was steeped in physical activity: running, swimming and other outdoor adventures never ceased to challenge and enthrall her. But cycling has been always at the core of her athletics. She spent hours daily, sinking her cycling roots into the long straightaways of Florida’s roads.
After reconnecting, Colleen and her high school sweetheart dove into the exhilarating world of triathlons. Colleen’s physical conditioning would soon become pivotal in a new way: In 2009, she required brain surgery to fix a Chiari malformation. She recovered well and shortly thereafter, while basking in a demanding triathlon training schedule, her partner proposed.
After undergoing brain surgery in 2009 for the Chiari malformation, Colleen overcame a lupus and cryoglobulinemia diagnosis in 2009, pushing forward to become a successful competitive triathlete. On October 8, 2011, she and her family were unaware of the horrific events about to unfold… On a cloudless fall morning in southern Connecticut, the competitive triathlete was riding her bike on Boston Post Road in Madison en route home when a 30-ton freighter slammed into her. She was run over by a multi-ton Freightliner. It rolled over her and dragged her along the road. When medics arrived, they found the young woman completely mangled from the stomach down: a broken pelvis and a severely de-gloved abdomen, leg, hips, pelvic area, and behind. She flatlined within minutes of arriving at Yale Trauma Center.
“The pain was intense, like fire,” Colleen remembers. The truck ripped open her belly, broke her pelvis and legs, severely damaged her leg muscles, and tore the skin off parts of her lower body. There were sirens and voices, but the sound she remembers was that of her heart. It began pounding when she saw the truck coming. As she lay there bleeding, she listened to its labored attempt to keep her alive. She screamed, thinking that as long as she was yelling, her heart was beating. But, as the ambulance speed to Yale-New Haven Hospital, Alexander’s heart stopped… It took 20 minutes for the medics to resuscitate her! Twenty-four hours later, they’d have to revive her again. More than a month would pass before she could breathe on her own. As her body slowly recovered, she returned to running. But the heavy, rhythmic sound of exercise that used to bring her peace, now caused panic.
Colleen received over 70 blood transfusions – including whole blood platelets and plasma – after her body was left so drained of blood that her heart lacked anything to pump. Requiring full resuscitation twice, Colleen remained in a coma for over five weeks. She endured multiple surgeries and severe wound management as her broken body struggled to heal. Defying diagnoses, dire predictions and death, Colleen stunned doctors by bucking the odds and coming back to run more than 30 races and complete eight triathlons, including a half Ironman in August 2013.
But she never forgets that her life has been embraced by heroes: the bystander that ran into the road to stop traffic after she was run over; the emergency medics on the scene; and the countless medical professionals in the trauma bay. And even while she lay unaware, the nurses, aides, and doctors cared for her so tenderly, every single day. Colleen continues to heal and move further along in her recovery. There are many more surgeries in her future, but she is alive, and she is thriving. It’s nothing short of miraculous. Colleen believes, at the heart of her remarkable comeback, is the inherent strength of the human spirit, the power of prayer, healthy food, exercise, proper rest, and a conscious constant and expressed gratitude.
Featured in numerous national newscasts, programs and media including: Fox News Connecticut, The Dr. Oz Show, WFSB Eyewitness News 3, Yale School of Medicine, Runners World, and the New York Road Runner, Colleen’s formidable achievements serve to underscore her belief that there is a hero in everyone that deserves to be honored. Regardless of the situation, adversity or obstacle, the power to triumph is universal – even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Colleen is uniquely qualified to speak to the miraculous power of body, mind, spirit and the phenomenal potential that every human being has which makes a positive impact. She approaches each moment – each breath – as a beautiful opportunity to experience the divine. She teaches others how to embrace that perspective so they too may persevere. Break down barriers. Open them up. Connect. Give back. THRIVE. She is honored to be alive. Her goal in this life is to empower and inspire others. “I am honored to share how I have survived and the power we each have as individuals when we truly believe in ourselves,” she says.
Colleen is still suffering from chronic pain and ongoing medical problems, but she still works tirelessly, fundraising, marketing, and advocating for blood donations, cycling safety, and other causes she is passionate about. She continues to push herself as an athlete too: training and continuing to cross finish lines, giving her medals to her heroes, and serving as a testament to the potential everyone has to persevere. She is a lifelong athlete and motivational speaker who inspires positive change, contribution, determination, and actionable gratitude. With her indomitable spirit and incredible story of survival, Colleen teaches others how to aim higher, be stronger, and use adversity as a catalyst to make the world a better, brighter place. If you want to know more about Colleen, please visit her website at www.colleenkellyalexander.com.
Colleen in her own words
How does it feel to be an inspiration to others? Did you ever expect to become an inspiration?
It is an honor. Prior to my trauma, I had overcome brain surgery, and endured a life with Lupus. Exercise, nutrition, and actionable gratitude have always been my therapy. After the trauma happened in 10/11 I learned that I had received 78 units of blood and had been resuscitated multiple times. My body was in a coma for 5.5 weeks, and endured 15 surgeries. Over the last three years post trauma I have now had 22 surgeries in order to get my body back into “working order”. My ability to be alive is directly correlated to hundreds of heroes. I never expected for this to happen to my life, and that is why I love speaking to others. It is important to share that life can change in the blink of an eye.
Why are Triathlons so inspiring? What makes this sport so special around the world?
Everyone can be a triathlete. Athletes come in every age, ability, race, and gender. Triathlons push the boundaries of the human spirit and allow us to celebrate what we are capable of achieving!
When did you start participating in triathlons? Where was your first competition?
I began participating the week of our wedding in June 2010. Our first event was on Honeymoon Island in Florida.
What motivates you in life?
The universality of the human spirit. We all bleed red! How cool is that? I am motivated in every breath of life that I can inhale.
What would you say to other people with similar ambitions?
Hello brothers and sisters! How awesome are we?.
Who inspires you? Why?
Blood donors inspire me. Every human being that selflessly rolls up their sleeve does it for no other reason than to give the gift of life to someone else. These people ultimately inspire me.
How did you deal with obstacles in your life?
By finding things to give thanks for. When I am in pain and struggling, I remember that pain means I am alive. Pain means I still have feeling.
What do you like most about Triathlons?
The incredible energy of everyone.
Mention major accomplishments in your life other than triathlons
Surviving a massive trauma where I was run over by a multi ton freight liner and brought back to life. Walking again, running again, biking again, swimming again even though I was critical for so long. Other accomplishments include working my work in the non for profit sector, being a motivator, and running and organic farm :).
Do you support or represent any Non-Profit Organizations?.
Yes. The American Red Cross www.redcross.org, and Pursuit Athletic Performance.