After a devastating car accident, running helps a young Leesport woman get her life
back on track
By Courtney H. Diener-Stokes – Reading Eagle correspondent
Seven years ago, Kelly Garrity-Haldeman’s life was changed in an instant.
She was on her way to visit her brother at East Stroudsburg University.
“I was driving back down Route 33, which is a busy highway, and I hit an S-curve a little too fast, and my car flipped over twice and landed with the roof up on the median,” said Garrity-Haldeman, 29, of Leesport. “This was told to me. I don’t remember any of this.”
By sheer coincidence, a family friend, Lisa Kross of East Stroudsburg, Monroe County, who happened to be a nurse, was driving behind her vehicle when it crashed.
“She and her husband (Chris Kross) stopped, and they said I was trying to get out of the car, but they knew from the condition of the vehicle I should not be moving,” Garrity-Haldeman said.
That decision likely saved her life.
“I was medevaced to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, and it turned out I had a small spot of blood on the brain, and both of my eyes, due to nerve damage, were still shut,” she said. “I had a broken nose, a broken toe and six skull fractures.”
She was unconscious when she arrived at the hospital.
“It turned out I had a small tear in my carotid artery,” she said. “If I had moved and that had torn more, I would have died,” she said.
Journey through recovery
After 11 days in the hospital, her journey to getting her life back on track would begin with six months of physical, occupational and cognitive therapy.
“I couldn’t walk at first,” she said. “I had to take physical therapy and aqua therapy.”
Garrity-Haldeman said the support she received from her family was instrumental in her recovery, particularly from her parents, John and Terri Garrity of East Stroudburg.
Her recovery period included making some adjustments to the way she lived prior to the accident.
“One of my eyes opened, and the other eventually did, but I sustained permanent nerve damage,” she said.
That resulted in blurred vision in her left eye, in addition to an eyeball that doesn’t move.
“It took three surgeries and now it (her eyeball) is centered in the middle,” she said. “I was really lucky and blessed I did not have to have any other surgeries.”
Garrity-Haldeman met her husband, Chris Haldeman, after the accident but prior to getting her eye surgery, which occurred six months after she was released from the hospital.
“I always say that I loved that he fell in love with me before I had the surgery (to correct my eye),” she said.
Dark phase and introduction to running
Garrity-Haldeman recalled a dark phase during her recovery period that brought her to tears when she described what she was feeling at that time.
“I just kind of gave up on life,” she said. “I didn’t go to the gym or anything. I gained a lot of weight from not doing anything, not being active.”
That all changed when she went to a Christmas gathering at her parents’ house in 2011.
“My brother’s girlfriend (now fiancee), Stacy McAdams from Lancaster, was there, and she looked fabulous and she had lost 20 pounds,” Garrity-Haldeman said. “I was so jealous of her, and I asked her what she was doing to look like that, and she said, ‘Running.’ I said, ‘I am not running.’ ”
She had never run prior to the accident. Her physical fitness regimen up until that time had consisted of being a cheerleader for the football and basketball teams when she attended East Stroudsburg University and doing the basics at the gym.
But she gave it more thought and took up an invitation to join her future sister-in-law for a run.
“I loved it, and it really changed me,” she said. “I never really thought about the capabilities I had prior to the accident. Running helped me lose 45 pounds.”
In 2013 she entered her first half-marathon, which she ran with McAdams in Asbury Park, N.J. The location was chosen due to her love of Bruce Springsteen and his connection to Asbury Park.
“It was amazing, and it was like the best day ever,” Garrity-Haldeman said. “I truly didn’t believe I could do that; I never knew I had that in me. I am so thankful she (McAdams) got me up and moving, and this is all because of her.”
Determined to help
Garrity-Haldeman was determined to do something good with her new love of running. Most recently, she participated in a half-marathon to raise money for the Lehigh Valley Hospital.
“It (the marathon) fell on the day seven years ago that they saved my life,” she said.
Garrity-Haldeman has her sights set on the New York City Marathon, which she will be competing in next month.
“My friend Christina Redner (who lives in Wyomissing) helped me get into the marathon through the IM Able Foundation,” she said. “They help those who can’t walk and provide them with those hand cycles. I thought it was for a really, really good cause. I can help people now who weren’t as lucky as I was to recover.”
The IM Able Foundation was founded by Chris Kaag, a former United States Marine who is the owner of Corps Fitness in Wyomissing and suffers from a degenerative nerve disease.
Prior to being involved with the foundation, Garrity-Haldeman said she never realized how lucky she was to be able to recover and participate in running.
“I spent so long feeling sorry for myself and not being truly grateful,” she said. “I am so honored to be meeting these people I am running for so they can realize their dream, too.”
In addition to training outdoors, Garrity-Haldeman has been using virtual training and has a coach at Wyomissing Fitness in Wyomissing to help her prepare for the marathon.
“Dee Koutsourais-Ganster, who is a manager of Running Start (West Reading), has been helping me,” she said. “We became really good friends from me going in there.”
Garrity-Haldeman described how she is feeling with her full marathon on the horizon.
“I am very, very nervous,” she said. “I freak out a lot. I really want to be able to do this. I train really hard; I have given it everything.”
Contact Courtney H. Diener-Stokes: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly Garrity-Haldeman, who is participating in the New York City Marathon next month, has reached $1,110 of her $2,000 goal to benefit the IM Able Foundation. If you want to help her reach or exceed that goal, visit bit.ly/1qjbrNM.
Love of running discovered
“I was unstoppable and it (running) lit a fire in me!” said Kelly Garrity-Haldeman. “I loved it. I ran to the gym, I ran to work, I ran to friends’ houses. I was so proud of the 45 pounds I shed in that year and all the hard work and dedication I found again within myself. I remember looking in the mirror one day thinking, ‘I spent so much time feeling sorry for myself and look what I can do? Look how many people aren’t as lucky as I am. I am alive, I can walk, and I can run!’”
IM Able mission statement
The mission of the IM Able Foundation is to remove obstacles that prevent people affected by disabilities from being physically active by providing grants, resources, fitness opportunities and motivation. We change attitudes about the potential of disabled individuals by redefining what is possible.
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