A Floyd County woman’s continuing recovery from a car crash has encouraged her loved ones and the community that has rallied behind her.
Alicia Robertson and husband Paul had been married only two weeks before a head-on collision injured them, his daughter, and another local woman.
The Robertsons were traveling to a women’s conference at their church on Sunday, July 21.
A witness to the crash heard a pop. “The tire blew out on my car, and that’s what caused it,” said Paul, who remembers only bits and pieces from that day. At some point during the accident, he said Alicia was turning around to check on Alaina, 4, who was secured in the back seat. “Her focus was on Alaina….I remember reaching over and grabbing her and saying ‘Lord, keep Alicia safe’.”
All four victims were transported to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The Robertsons were flown in three LifeGuard helicopters.
Paul and Alicia were seriously injured. “It was said – I don’t know the source – they weren’t expecting us to make it through the night, but we’re still here,” Paul said.
Alicia suffered a severe brain injury, broken ribs and broken bones in both feet. The broken bones have all healed. She is still recovering from the brain injury and is in rehab working on her memory, fine motor skills, walking and daily tasks.
Paul, transportation supervisor for Floyd County Public Schools, had a minor brain injury, shattered femur, major abdominal trauma and internal bleeding as a result of the car crash. He ended up having seven surgeries, basically one a day for a week, Robin Robertson, his mother, said. “They had to take out a section of his colon….Every day they kept going in to see if they could attach it back together.”
Alaina, who had a concussion and was very bruised, was released from the hospital in a few days. The other woman in the crash was also released from the hospital.
Alicia was an EMT with the Riner Volunteer Rescue Squad before the couple married. She had left that job to devote time to their ministry. Paul sings and plays the piano and organ, and Alicia sings and plays the drums and bass. They are part of All For Jesus Ministries, and they travel and sing together. “Just about every weekend, we’re gone somewhere doing a revival,” Paul said.
Robin said after the car crash, the Rescue Squad “helped us so much. They gave us food. We’d wake up in the morning, and we had breakfast. We had supper, anything we wanted. They gave us (her and Alicia’s mom Lisa Marks) a blow-up mattress so we were able to sleep comfortably….We were able to put it in the waiting area. They took great care of us.”
The mothers stayed by their bedsides throughout their stays. Lisa continues to be alongside her daughter while she is going through rehab, and Robin is accompanying Paul on his trips to be with Alicia and to medical appointments.
Paul said Alicia’s therapist and neurologist were “glowing” when they recently told him how well her recovery is going. Alicia is progressing so fast that doctors want to do a study on her in order to help others in the future. “I truly believe that God had everything to do with it,” said Paul, who commented that many people have been praying for them.
“That’s why they’re here—because of prayers,” Robin said.
“We had so much support that night when we wrecked from my church (Walton Pentecostal Holiness in Radford) and all the churches in the area where we’d ministered,” Paul said. “Hundreds of people showed up at the hospital and filled the waiting rooms. The hospital (as one nurse said) put us in ‘celebrity mode’ and locked down all of our medical information. Anybody that had access to give us medicine they had to do what was called ‘breaking the glass’ to get our information and explain why they were there, just because we had so many people following us.”
Paul’s aunt, Tammy Wilmoth, was designated to put updates about their condition on Facebook.
Several fundraisers, including one by Medical Charities of Floyd County, have been started to raise money for the family’s expenses.
Christy Jennings made the family #RobertsonStrong t-shirts, and then the effort grew into another fundraiser with the sale of t-shirts to others. Another friend made bracelets - #Robertson Strong – I Timothy 6:12.
Paul said he never mentioned anything about needing money, “but this whole county has stepped up and wanted to help.”
“They just did it on their own,” Robin added.
People have also mowed grass for the Robertsons and helped with house maintenance, in addition to donating money, bringing them dinner and sending cards.
“We even had someone build a bridge over to the house and (they) lit it up with lights,” Robin noted. “It was beautiful.” The bridge has been helpful to Paul, and it will also be used by Alicia when she comes home.
Robin expressed her thanks to everyone. “We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”
“I’m just so, so grateful,” Paul said. “They’ve gone above and beyond.”
Paul said the school division and his insurance there have also been wonderful throughout this process.
At the wreck scene, Paul, who also works part-time as a dispatcher at the Sheriff’s Office, remembers seeing deputies when they got there and were consoling him and other people trying to help them.
Paul was in a coma for several days. Alicia was on life support even longer.
Alaina had a difficult time getting in a car a short while after the crash, but Paul said she has gotten better. “The last time she was in the car she was singing ‘Let It Go’–from the movie Frozen–to the top of her lungs.” She recently told her father that she “rode in the helicopter with strangers” and she wasn’t scared.
“Physically, I’m not in much pain, just limited on what I can do,” Paul continued. “Every day I’m getting better. My biggest pain is heart pain because my sweetie is still in the hospital. That hurts more than anything.”
When Alicia was in a coma, it was important to talk to her and remain positive, the family said. After she woke up from the coma and doctors had taken her trach out, they had been trying to get her to talk. Paul said she wouldn’t respond and the doctors were concerned. Doctors connected with Paul on FaceTime (because he was in another hospital for rehab). When Alicia saw him, she said, “I love you, Paul.” Those were her first words.
When they were in separate hospitals, Paul tried to get doctors’ orders to visit her. His speech therapist was able to make that happen. She planned the visit a part of his therapy by asking him to give her directions to the hospital and then to Alicia’s room, where they were able to visit for an hour. “Back then she wasn’t really responsive at all, and I would just go sit with her and talk with her and sing to her,” Paul said.
The team of therapists who helped Paul also eventually became Alicia’s therapists when she moved to the rehab center.
Paul shared his and Alicia’s love story with them. More than 20 years ago, Paul had met Alicia and her family, who had a traveling ministry, when they visited his church in Meadows of Dan. She was playing the drums. He was 13 years old. His grandfather, who was the pastor, took them out to eat after the church service and then gave them both $20 and sent them to the shopping mall. She found a pair of shoes she wanted; they cost $40. She only had $20, so Paul gave her his money, too. Her family teased her for taking his money, and it has been a joke for years. He says it was the best $20 he had ever invested.
Alicia eventually moved to Washington, D.C., but Paul had seen her through the years. He went to India with her family seven times, as part of her parents’ ministries. Her parents eventually started coming to his church, where he serves as associate worship leader. Then in October, 2018, Alicia moved back to town and came to the church. Paul said he worked to win her heart.
Doctors have told Paul his presence makes a big difference for Alicia as she recovers.
Paul said he would describe Alicia’s progress as a miracle. One doctor who initially saw Alicia at the hospital and had been out of town awhile said it was “unbelievable” and was crying as she watched her climb stairs during a therapy session.
“My main concern now is taking care of my wife,” Paul said. “I cannot tell you how much I love that girl.”
Paul is asking that everyone continue to pray for Alicia that her recovery still progresses as it is now–“fast” –and “that she is 100 percent whole”. He also asks for prayers on his behalf.
When they were dating, Alicia remarked that if she ever became bedridden, it wouldn’t be fair to him as a husband. He told her if that happened, he would crawl in bed with her. He has kept his word. “My goal is when she comes through all this, she can stand back and say ‘he stuck with me through everything’.”