On the afternoon of March 28, 2015, on Phar Mill Road in Cabarrus County, Bettielou Small was training for her seventh marathon. She was on an eight-mile run – a piece of cake for a seasoned runner like her – when she was struck from behind by a white Mustang GT driven by a teenager who was texting while driving.
Bettielou, 56, suffered a shattered pelvis, broken femur, assorted fractures, numerous lacerations and a concussion. For nearly a month, she did not remember anything. Her recovery journey took her from the ICU to a regular hospital room to rehab. Then, on May 29, eight weeks and one day after she nearly died, Bettielou arrived at her place of hope – the YMCA.
“When I think about the Y,” says Bettielou, “I think about how kind and helpful everybody is. They are so authentic. Everyone speaks to you and asks how you’re doing. It’s not just about physical fitness at the Y.”
Bettielou and her husband, Ed, had visited the Y a few weeks prior to her accident, interested in joining. Now here she was post-accident, wearing a flotation device, swimming at least a mile each workout, and finding in the water the chance to become strong again. Whole again.
“Once I got in the pool,” she says, “both of my legs worked. That was a big deal, for my mind as well as my body.”
Bettielou has become a Y regular, her smile and courage drawing the attention and support of staff and members. The overwhelming encouragement drove Bettielou forward.
“She really wanted to come to the Y,” says membership director Betsy Driest. “As soon as her doctor said she could swim with a flotation device, she showed up in her wheelchair, holding her Y pass, with a big smile on her face. Ever since, she has been pushing herself. She’s always striving for the next goal.”
Bettielou, a mother of three and grandmother of three who worked as a trauma nurse prior to the accident, walks on her own now. “When Y members saw her graduate from two crutches to one crutch to a cane,” Betsy smiles, “they would stop her in the hall to say, ‘Wow!’”
Today, Bettielou continues to swim at the Y and has graduated to a stationary bike. She intends to run again. Early on, when her doctor advised against that possibility, she looked at him and asked with a determined grin, “Does everyone do what you say?”
“The moral of this story,” Betsy adds, “is the word she used when she shared her story with us. Grit. Bettielou has grit.”