On June 30, 2012, Debbie Wog's world as she knew it came to a sudden halt.
She was riding along the shoulder of State Highway 7, training for the cycling portion of the Redman Triathlon, when a sport utility vehicle struck her from behind.
She heard the noise of the crash an instant before she registered that she was the one who had been struck. The moment she hit the pavement, the pain set in.
Members of a local Seventh-day Adventist Church who were coming out of services came to her aid and called 911. She was taken by ambulance to the Arbuckle Memorial Hospital in Sulphur and then flown to OU Medical Center.
Her injuries included three broken vertebrae, five broken ribs, a broken ankle and a collapsed left lung. Her helmet prevented serious head injuries.
She spent six days in the trauma unit, then was transferred to Integris Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center. After two days there she was allowed to go home.
“I was in good shape before the accident, which was a huge help, and I was extremely motivated. After the first physical therapy session, I could do pretty much everything they needed me to do to be released,” she said.
Wog began to take slow and painful walks through her neighborhood. Her broken ankle was encased in a medical boot, her torso encircled in a back brace.
“My mom lives only a few streets away from me so she would come over in the mornings and we would walk. At first, it was only a block or two, but in two weeks, we were over a mile and my mother struggled to keep up with me.”
As a wife, mother of a teenage son and daughter, a triathlete and a yoga and fitness instructor in south Oklahoma City, Wog was committed to doing whatever was necessary to resume her life.
She returned to her yoga studio about two weeks after she was released from the hospital.
“After a month, I could return to coaching some classes at the Earlywine YMCA. After two months, I was able to begin teaching again.”
She ran a 10k in the Kilgore Half race on Christmas Eve of 2012, six months after the accident.
“This was the furthest I'd run up to that point. My entire running community/support system was there to cheer me on and there were lots of tears.”
In March, she planned a bicycle ride along the Oklahoma River trails with some friends.
“Initially, we were just planning on riding on the trail, but due to construction, we had to go on the open road to loop around to the other side of the trail. I was very nervous, to say the least, but my friends ‘cocooned' me so I would feel protected. I still get nervous riding on the open road.”
The year of recovery has not been easy. Wog, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, credits her faith in God and the faith and prayers of friends and family members for her survival and recovery.
“Debbie Wog is one of the most faith-filled, determined, disciplined people I know,” said her friend Rhonda Taylor. “She takes care of the body God gave her.”
Janice Maitino, who attends her body pump class at the YMCA said, “Her strength and courage is truly amazing and such an inspiration. If I have times that I feel that I can't do something I think of her and tell myself if Debbie can fight back from her accident I have no excuse. The world could use a lot more people with such grit.”
Wog says she's learned a lot.
“I have learned to appreciate life. I know that sounds cliché, but we are not guaranteed any set amount of time on this earth so every moment, every experience is a gift to be embraced. Our family has gotten much closer since the accident.
“Another important thing I learned was to accept service from others. I've always prided myself on my independence and self-sufficiency. I was put in a situation that I needed help and my church family rendered service in every way possible. It seemed I was always in tears, just moved and appreciative of the help and the love I received.”
Wog's counsel for fellow cyclists is to always wear a helmet. She has long been an advocate for cycling helmets, and will be wearing hers in September when she competes for the first time in the full Redman Triathlon.
Debra Woods is public affairs director for the Oklahoma City South Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.