ROYAL FRONT — Alan Fox says he has no recollection of the December 17 vehicle collision that nearly killed him.
Fox and his wife, SueAnn, say they remember the rescuers who saved his life, the doctors and therapists who helped him recover, and the community that continues to help him through it all.
Alan Fox retired as Warren County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Education on June 13 after 34 years of work in public education. The Foxes spoke of his accident and the long recovery recently at his late mother’s home on Remount Road – opposite where the collision happened.
“After what I heard, I lived, it’s a miracle. All the ministers I’ve spoken to, all the volunteer firefighters, they tell me it’s a miracle and so I feel pretty good,” Fox said. “Now I am no longer myself. It takes time and the first steps are a bit difficult.
Fox was hit by a car and sent into a tree while trying to help a motorist pull a vehicle out of a ditch. Fox said his memory of the accident ends before the collision, shortly after he arrived to help. He regained consciousness a few days later with no memory of the collision, the resulting injuries or the first responders who worked to save his life. He does not remember getting into an ambulance or a helicopter or any of the medical procedures he had to undergo.
“There’s no hesitation for me because I don’t remember anything,” Fox said. “Apparently that evening I was having a conversation with the Superintendent of Schools and the Director of Human Resources. We just had a regular conversation in the superintendent’s office.
“So I go home (to his mother). I see this car across the road,” Fox said. “And there’s a ditch and I’m terrified of the road – a cousin was killed 35 years ago and I heard this story forever – so I’m terrified but, hey, I was off the road. I’m off the road. I have no worries.
The motorist appears to have attempted to enter a driveway but missed. The vehicle ended up in the ditch with the rear on the road, SueAnn said. Fox saw the motorist across the street and went to see if he could help push the vehicle out of the ditch. A driver traveled up a hill and didn’t see the vehicle in the ditch in the dark until it was too late, SueAnn said. The oncoming vehicle collided with the vehicle stuck in the ditch. The force of the impact spun the vehicle into the ditch and hit Fox, sending him 15 feet into a tree, she said.
SueAnn Fox said that upon hearing the news that her husband had been hurt so badly, “she felt like the world was over”.
Emergency medical technicians intubated Fox at the scene – a step that likely saved his life as he never lost oxygen, SueAnn Fox said. Staff at Winchester Medical Center then had Fox transferred by helicopter to Inova Fairfax. About eight hours passed between the time of the accident and the arrival at the hospital in Fairfax, SueAnn Fox said.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” she said. “You don’t really feel like you’re a part of what’s going on…it’s all just happening around you.”
Fox regained consciousness about a week later, on Christmas Day.
SueAnn described her husband’s injuries: five brain hemorrhages; a crushed left eye socket that required reconstructive surgery; multiple fractures of the vertebrae of the neck and spine; 15 broken ribs, pelvis, coccyx and wrist; a punctured lung; and lacerations to a kidney and an ear. The spinal fractures and kidney lacerations healed on their own, SueAnn Fox said. Fox has had two lung surgeries which he says are still causing pain. Fox remained in the trauma area of the hospital’s intensive care unit, she said. Doctors improved his condition and transferred him to the general intensive care unit where he remained for a week until he fell and broke his eye socket, she recalls.
To treat brain bleeds, surgeons installed a device, called a “bolt,” into his skull that monitored pressure on the brain, Fox said. The device alerted doctors if they needed to drill holes in Fox’s skull to relieve pressure on the brain.
“We really started getting blessings from the second it happened because he never needed to,” SueAnn said. “He never had any significant pressure on the brain. You lived and died watching that monitor to see what his pressure was and what his air level was.
“Our daughter said he looked like a Teletubbie” because of the bolt sticking out of his head, recalls SueAnn. She began taking photos of her husband a week later – images which the couple say help to see his progress.
“It’s good for me too, because…it helps me put things in perspective, because I’m still unhappy with the things I can’t do,” Fox said.
The former footballer said he lacked coordination to catch the balls therapists threw at him during a rehabilitation exercise.
“I’m regaining some of the ability,” Fox said. “But, again, seeing this image helps put things into perspective because…coming from where I was just to be able to walk through those doors and open the doors — wow, what a difference that is,” Fox said. .
Fox spent time at the Sheltering Arms Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Center near Richmond. The Foxes praised the facility and its staff for the work they’ve done to help it get back on its feet. Fox hadn’t walked for about seven weeks since the accident. The therapists had him walking as soon as he arrived, she said.
“I hope that word gets out because it would help families so much,” SueAnn Fox said of Sheltering Arms. “They don’t just look after a patient, they’re so good for families.”
Friends and members of the Warren County community raised money for the Foxes. His friend Danny Yates set up a GoFundMe page and he and other donors enabled the family to stay at a hotel near the rehab center, Fox said.
The Foxes kept all the cards they received from the community. Students at every school in the county wrote her cards and held fundraisers for the family, SueAnn said. She received gift cards that covered her gas for months.
“Of course it was very helpful, but the one thought behind it was just – you know, we knew people were supporting us and caring and praying,” SueAnn said. “It’s incredible.”
Alan Fox intervened.
“My life was put on hold for months, but their life was put on hold as well,” Fox said. “But they understood.”
Fox continues to receive occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy. Speech therapy focused on his problem-solving abilities — a core part of his job in the school system, Fox said. He is also undergoing treatment for nerve damage.
Fox also had to relearn how to play guitar and keyboard. He said he looked forward to performing in front of the public again, particularly in The Administration group which includes his colleagues from the Warren County Public Schools Administrative Office.
“Alan First is a great friend and a great colleague,” said Special Services Director Michael Hirsch. “Alan’s commitment and dedication to the students of Warren County over the past 30+ years has been… a joy to watch. His commitment is one of his greatest assets, let’s just say Thus.
“It was sad to see him, of course, having an accident, but his recovery is ongoing and he’s getting better every day and I look forward to spending lots of time with Alan in the future.”
Even though he’s retired, Fox said he’s interested in working part-time for the school system once he’s healed and well enough. Fox said “to be with kids, in my opinion, you have to be 100% yourself.” Doctors and therapists say he needs about a year to continue healing.
“To be fair to everyone, I want to make sure — for me, I want to make sure he has the opportunity to do his best, and he just needs that time,” SueAnn said.
He added: “I want to protect the kids and I also want to protect my bosses because they put somebody in there, they expect somebody to be ready to go.”
“And I said this to SueAnn: I feel like I’m ready to go, but people who have been around me forever say ‘you’ve got a long way to go, mate,'” Fox said.