Carol Anne Alexander’s world stopped when she heard the police officer’s words:
“Your son has been involved in a very tragic accident,” the officer said.
The incident occurred in July 2002 and the terrorist attacks from the previous September remained fresh in Carol’s mind. Volunteers had been collecting funds for police and fire departments.
So Alexander thought the burly police officer at her front door just wanted a donation.
Instead, he asked if she had a son, Jason Alexander. She did.
The law enforcement officer told her Jason was being airlifted to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Everything inside me told me my son’s life was hanging by a thread,” she remembers.
Paul and Carol Alexander had pastored churches in their native South Africa as well as the United Kingdom. They started the Africa School of Missions, which sent missionaries around the world, and then led a church in Australia.
Most recently, they had been invited to help the Concord First Assembly in North Carolina with its mission program.
Their 22-year-old son, affectionately called Jay, planned to pursue a degree in cultural anthropology in California, while daughter Anna sought degrees in general and special education in Illinois. The children had come home to work summer jobs while waiting to begin the fall term.
Jay had been driving at an accident-prone intersection with no traffic lights. A nearby wheat field obstructed his view.
His vehicle crossed through the intersection when a fully laden, 60,000-pound garbage truck T-boned the automobile, pushing it 120 yards and uprooting two trees. The truck flipped and landed on his vehicle, sheering the right wheels off their axles. The car’s entire right side smashed into Jay.
At the hospital, doctors were direct: every organ in Jay’s body had ruptured. People with such injuries don’t survive.
“Thus began one of the longest and most arduous nightmares of our lives,” Carol says. “For three weeks, every day, we were told, ‘Today might be the day that Jay dies.’”
The first night, as Paul prepared to return to the hospital, he spotted Anna on her knees, praying in Jay’s closet, with her hands in his tennis shoes.
“Jesus, please let my brother walk in these shoes again,” Anna prayed.
Hot tears flowed down Paul’s face.
A team of physicians worked for 7½ hours to repair the immense damage to Jay’s body. His rib cage was so crushed that surgeons had to go through his back to repair his ruptured aorta. One rib had penetrated his heart. Another rib punctured his lungs and a third his spine.
Massive internal injuries caused profuse bleeding and he needed six blood transfusions in the first 24 hours.
“He was like a leaking hose,” Carol recalls. “He was a desperate case.”
Doctors discovered during surgery there had been no blood flowing to his spinal column, which meant he probably wouldn’t walk again.
Yet after the Alexanders talked with the doctors, Anna told her mother that Jay would walk out of this hospital.
People around the world prayed for Jay and his family as he battled a host of complications.
The third day, Jay had three strokes. That night, the intensive care unit trauma doctor called the Alexanders into his office.
The physician, who admitted he didn’t have a religious faith, hadn’t expected Jay to survive the surgery. But he explained to the Alexanders that he believed a higher power was taking care of their son, doing a better job than medical science could do.
A nurse later tearfully told Paul that patients had started healing quicker on the hospital wing and the staff cooperated more since they took up residency in their son’s room.
“It was a very humbling moment for us, because we were just hanging onto Jesus,” Carol says. “God still shines in those darkest moments.”
People asked Paul to pray for their ill loved ones. The Alexanders talked with medical professionals about Jesus.
“They saw our tears and heartache” Carol says. “They saw us reading the Bible to Jay. They saw our faith, our vulnerability.”
As Jay remained on life support, the Alexanders talked to him every day, telling him what day it was, who had called, and that they loved him — just as if he were awake.
Then about 2 a.m., July 20, a Christian nurse saw Jay’s eyes open. She asked Jay to shake his head if he could hear her.
He shook his head.
She asked him to stick out his tongue.
He did that, too.
By this time, everyone on staff had gathered around Jay’s bed.
The nurse asked Jay to wiggle his big right toe, then his big left toe.
He accomplished these tasks as well. Hospital personnel began weeping.
Still, rehabilitation and medical professionals figured it might be a year before Jason could return home. However, he left the hospital on Aug. 8, just 6½ weeks after the crash. The day Jay left the hospital, his muscles were still atrophied.
“As we lifted his legs into the car, we realized he wore the shoes that Anna prayed in,” Carol says.
The Alexanders later faced another life-threatening situation, with Paul’s diagnosis of a large aortic aneurysm. He had a successful aortic value and root replacement surgery in 2007. At the time, Paul served as president of Mattersey Hall Bible College and Graduate School in the United Kingdom.
After seven years at Mattersey, the Alexanders returned to the United States. Carol prayed God would put them in a place with blue sky, white beaches and palm trees.
Instead, they arrived at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota, in January 2012 on a day where the thermometer dipped to 19 degrees below zero.
Declining student enrollment and mounting debt had put the Assemblies of God school on the brink of closure. But the Alexanders began to oversee an amazing turnaround.
Paul is president and Carol is dean of the graduate school. When they started, Trinity had no graduate school.
In late July, Trinity emerged completely from debt. There has been more than $15 million in campus development, all financed by gifts from faithful friends, since their arrival.
Today, Jay is 41 years old, fully recovered from his near-fatal wreck, and married to Aysel, a Christian from Turkey. Anna and her husband, Rich, have two children, Ava, 12, and Tylan, 10.
“God is kind and God is faithful,” Carol says. “He journeys with us through those traumatic times and it’s those traumatic times that have made me love Him more than I’ve ever loved Him before.”