A Life-Changing Journey with Help from the YMCA

Lisa Patrick

The Ashland Beacon


   In 2001, Alison Webb was in a car accident that she never should have walked away from. She was just 20 years old when she was told that she’d never walk again. But Webb was determined to live life on her terms. She joined the YMCA and proved that a positive attitude can change a life.

   At the time of the accident, Webb was working as a receptionist in a dental office and was dating a man who had been transferred to Dunbar.

   Webb had just bought a new car so that she could drive back and forth from Ashland to visit him, but had messed up a tire on it and was driving on a donut until she could get time to get a new tire. On July 13, 2001, which also happened to be a Friday the 13th, Webb was traveling along Boy Scout Road on her way to her dad’s house, when another vehicle started approaching. It was in her lane. Webb said that she tried to go off the side of the road and that is when “I lost control.”

   Webb hit a tree with her driver’s side door and her seat ripped off the floorboard, throwing her “face first through the glass into the tree” before her car rolled 230 feet down a ravine.

   Webb broke her left hip, her lower back, her right collar bone, and every bone in her face “from chin to forehead, I broke them all.” Glass punctured her left eye. She lost nine teeth. She was leaking cerebral-spinal fluid through her nose which first made the doctors think that she would need brain surgery. She spent two weeks in a coma on life-support. Webb can now joke: “I got my first nose job when I couldn’t even buy a drink.”

   Webb was told that she would be in a wheelchair and that she would never be able to work or go to school again. “They gave me a lot of really bad news. They just wanted to keep giving me pain pills,” she reminisced. Webb just wasn’t happy with that, so she started going to Pathways because she had a traumatic brain injury and “severe post traumatic stress.” She said that “I didn’t ever want to be in a car again. I was terrified.” The traumatic brain injury had also caused her to lose 40 points of her IQ according to initial testing after her accident which Webb said broke her heart.

   She said that her Pathways counselor was “amazing at recognizing what was going on. She knew that I didn’t want to be that way.” Webb couldn’t carry on a conversation because of her difficulty with memory and words at that time. She said that her counselor “gave me homework and made me read books.” Soon, her IQ numbers started going back up and her counselor told her that she could attend school and asked her what she wanted to do. Webb replied, “teeth. I want to do teeth.” Webb completed school with support from the special needs program and Voc Rehab, and now works as a dental hygienist.

   Webb explained that the YMCA came from Pathways too. At the time of the accident, Webb was a size two and was putting on weight because she was getting healthy but that she “didn’t like it.” She was depressed because she didn’t have a license or a job, and didn’t have any money. So her counselor told her that she could get her a membership to the Ashland YMCA through their scholarship program. That was almost 17 years ago.

   When Webb first walked into the YMCA in February of 2003, she “didn’t know a soul.” She had “no fitness background whatsoever. On the academic team, you don’t run.” She said that she decided to take a Step class and that she “came up here and made a fool of myself. I had no idea what I was doing.”

   She backed out of the step and heavy cardio and switched over to toning, but kept coming. She said that she felt that the instructors “really valued me here. The stronger I got, the more healthy I got, the better I felt and the more my confidence increased.”

   When Zumba came to the YMCA in 2005, Alison showed up to take classes under Gina Bryson (now Gina Brown.) “Gina really got me into [Zumba]” and “made me part of her demo team. She made me such a part of it.” When the certification came to Ashland, Gina told her, “you have to get certified” and that was 10 years ago.

   One day, Annie Wilson, the former senior program director for the YMCA, was doing yearly evaluations for the instructors. Wilson came into a Saturday morning class that Webb was participating in. Webb revealed, “I didn’t care. Here’s Annie over here with a clipboard and I’m screaming, I’m whooping and hollering and I’m making faces and I’m just going nuts.” The following Monday, “Annie called me and left me a message offering me a job at the YMCA.”

   When Webb’s students leave at the end of each class, “I tell them that I love them and I tell them they’re awesome every single class without fail,” Webb said. “I love this place. I’m totally addicted.”

   Webb doesn’t know how she got so lucky, but she “will always be grateful for what they did for me.”