After nearly fatal accident, runner turns Gasparilla race into comeback

Miraculous survivor has story of perserverence

"You only live twice" is a familiar phrase.

But for Colleen Kelly Alexander, a near fatal crash left her on the brink of death twice. Now she's on a mission to help others live, especially those who are trying to overcome incredible adversity.

There are few survival stories more stunning than that of Alexander, 38, who was training for a triathlon in Connecticut Oct. 8, 2011, when her life changed forever.

She was struck by a tractor trailer and run over, her body dragged alongside the massive vehicle.  It took 70 blood transfusions from 100 donors to revive her, even though at one point her heart stopped beating.

"I remember getting run over. I remember everything up until I flat-lined," Alexander said. When she woke up from a coma weeks later, she quickly realized the severity of her injuries.

"I just started looking down at my body and realizing all the wounds and damage that I had," Alexander said.  "My husband looked at me and said 'we're in this together.'"

During the ordeal, she was nearly proclaimed clinically dead twice.

Since then, Alexander became an inspirational speaker who tries to connect with her audience through her harrowing experience of injury followed by a miraculous recovery.

"There's a reason I'm here," Alexander said. "You don't get run over by a multi-ton freight liner and stand here and talk to you."

She credits those who volunteer with groups like the American Red Cross for saving her life.  

"It's not about me anymore," said Alexander.  "It's about this whole army of people behind me that have worked so tirelessly to keep me alive."

Alexander is participating in Sunday's Gasparilla Distance Classic race, one of many she's managed to enter since the accident.

The survivor is donating a part of her speaking fees at a Friday event to the Tampa Red Cross chapter and will give her medal from the race to Barbara Buckland, a volunteer who teaches CPR.

Buckland said she's touched to be honored by someone who benefited from rescue training.

"I want people to think, 'If someone's not breathing, hey, I can help,'" Buckland said. "I can be part of that person getting better, getting well."

Alexander said this weekend's race is the latest effort in a long journey that will include more doctor visits and procedures.

But it's the motivation she gives to others that helps keep her going.

"I'm really getting them to harness their inner spirit and ask for help," Alexander said.

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