By COSHANDRA DILLARD

Staff Writer

Fitness instructor and Whitehouse resident Lindsay Gray’s life changed forever on July 7, 2009. It was the day she almost lost her life. She and her two toddler sons were traveling on Texas Highway 110 near Whitehouse when she collided with a driver who she said was fumbling for a pen in the passenger seat. She was traveling about 50 mph uphill; the other driver was going more than 70 down the hill.

“The road curved, and he didn’t curve with it,” Mrs. Gray said. “So he hit me head on. I never saw it coming. I don’t remember it. All I know is what people have told me.”

Mrs. Gray, 29, suffered traumatic injuries to her brain and face, but her children did not receive the brunt of the force.

“Luckily, most of the impact was on me,” she said.

Besides cuts and scrapes, the youngest son had a skull fracture he quickly recovered from.

Mrs. Gray was in the hospital for 20 days, 16 of which she was in a medically induced coma.

She believes she would have been in the hospital longer, if she had health insurance.

Her face was crushed and she underwent two facial reconstructive surgeries. Seventy-five percent of her face is covered in titanium plates now. Despite those severe injuries, there are hardly any remnants of the crash. There is one scar under her chin.

She sees “small blessings” in her recovery. Her vision was not compromised. The injuries only resulted in her wearing contacts or glasses.

“My eye socket was crushed,” she said. “I had a lot of glass in my eye, and yet I can see out of that eye. None of it was in the retina. I’m very, very blessed to even be able to see. My surgeon was very surprised I didn’t lose my eyes, much less my vision.”

She added, “I had a bone break that my doctor had never experienced before. My jaw split completely in half, and I didn’t lose a single tooth.”

When her jaw was reset, the surgeon fixed her cross bite and while resetting her broken nose, two deviated septums were repaired.

“I’d never really been able to breathe out of my nose in my life, and he just went ahead and fixed it while he was in there,” she recounted.

About two weeks after the accident, doctors learned she had a hairline fracture in a small bone of her foot. She’s fortunate that is all that was broken, since the dashboard fell in her lap during the accident. However, it took that small bone about four months to heal.

Mrs. Gray feels her good health before the accident is partly may have factored into her miraculous recovery.

“When I first met with my doctor post-hospital, he said that the only reason that I survived is because I was so healthy. Because I was so viable, it was easier for me to recover from such a traumatic injury.”

Building her strength and staying committed to good health became a priority after the accident.

“I’d always enjoyed being active, but it really, really lit a fuse in me after the accident to get in the best possible shape I could be in,” she said. “I started trying to get back in shape and trying to rehabilitate myself because I couldn’t use my physical therapist anymore. I started doing Pilates since I could stay on the mat and didn’t have to stand.”

She was later offered a ballet teaching job at her church’s community life center. Before the accident, Mrs. Gray enjoyed dancing. She hadn’t discovered ballet until she was 18 years old, so she didn’t pursue it as a career.

“I didn’t really do anything with it, except just enjoy it,” she said.

When both of her children began school, the former stay-at-home mom wanted to find a full-time fulfilling job.

“I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself now that I was not needing to be at home with kids all of the time,” she said. “My mom had put it in my head about teaching Pilates. I had done Pilates for many years, just at home. I was more of an at-home workout person.”

Mrs. Gray researched Pilates and found a company that offered a teaching certification. She later sent a r←sum← to a new gym in Tyler, where she was hired. Months later, she learned about Piloxing — a workout that mixes Pilates with boxing moves while barefoot.

“I really can’t tell you how I ended up on Google,” she said. “I never really heard about it. It was on a Tuesday and they just happened to be having a workshop that coming Sunday. It wasn’t ridiculously expensive so I signed up for it.”

Mrs. Gray said people understand that each day could be their last, but it doesn’t sink in until the reality of a potentially fatal accident occurs.

“I was told many times that they could not believe that I had survived what I endured. I guess it just gives you a new respect for yourself, for your children. I definitely don’t want to do anything that’s slowly going to kill me. I want to take care of myself so that if something like that were to happen again or worse, I’d definitely have a fighting chance to survive.”

Mrs. Gray said understanding the need for a lifestyle change is one thing, but getting up to do it is another. It’s the biggest challenge people face.

“It’s really hard to convince people to do stuff before that major life event happens because unless you go through it, you really can’t understand how fragile life is and how things can change in just one little heart beat,” she said. “Just that feeling of gratefulness that I have to have survived and for my kids to have not been severely injured and recovered very quickly, that really was a life changer for me.”

Getting motivated can come from finding fun things people can consistently participate in. She sticks with piloxing because it burns a lot of calories and it’s fun.

“Experiment a lot,” she said. “Find that thing that works for you. I’m not a runner. I can’t run to save my life. I’m not one of those people who can go in the weight room and run on a treadmill.”

Her motivation has always been the fear of chronic disease.

“Diabetes runs in my family, type 2,” she said. “So, the fear of getting that has been enough for me to want to stay healthy and get to the point where I could be at risk for type 2 diabetes. Sadly, that doesn’t work for everybody.”

Mrs. Gray said she works twice as hard to get a response from her classes. In addition to Piloxing, she teaches yoga, Pilates and PiYo — a blend of Pilates and yoga — in 10 different classes at four gyms each week. She often shares her testimony and her mission is to inspire others to get excited about fitness.

“I know that people leave my class and feel better about themselves and they want to come back again,” she said. “I see them get stronger, see them throw a better punch. It makes me feel like I’ve really accomplished something that day if I can do that for them.”

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