Driver saved by passion for weightlifting

He can’t see as well. To watch his favorite Boston Red Sox, he has to hold his iPad mere inches from his face. He’s never without his headphones, either: he needs them for the voiceover function on his iPhone to read his texts. And although he is set to graduate from Indiana University with a sports management degree in May, it will be a year later than expected.

It’s been five years now, and Alex Driver doesn’t remember anything from the crash that flipped his life on end. Doesn’t remember his 1998 white Toyota Camry smashing head-on into a tree while driving on a country road to a friend’s house. Luck would have it that a former high school classmate saw his car and called police.

When the ambulance finally got Driver to IU Health Bloomington Hospital, doctors knew almost immediately that they could not properly treat his injuries. From here, he was lifelined to the Level I trauma center at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

The impact severely bruised his lungs, leaving the blood flowing to his brain without enough oxygen to function in its full capacity. A medically induced coma became the best option moving forward.

During the 10 days he was under anesthesia, doctors made it known to his family the muscular physique he was so proud of had likely saved his life.

“That’s what my brother said the doctors said,” Driver recalls with a chuckle. “Which that’s good. All that lifting paid off.”

Sports dominated Driver’s free time starting in elementary school. By high school, he was a varsity athlete in soccer, basketball and baseball, but the physical tools had yet to match with the work he put in. A self-described “chunky kid growing up,” Driver made the decision before his junior year to begin weight training.

One year later and the results were there for everyone to see. He kicked off his senior year of athletics with the varsity soccer team by wearing a sleeveless goalkeeping jersey. He wanted everyone to have their own ticket to the gun show.

He was not just brawny compared to other soccer players, either. Every appearance on the hardwood began with a “Bi-ceps, Tri-ceps,” chant from the student section. Driver dropped the “chunky” look for a Herculean one, but that was not the only reason why he started.

“…You see improvements that make you want to keep going and going and going,” Driver states, “until you’re happy with what you’ve accomplished.”

This mindset became crucial during the nearly two months he spent in the hospital and rehab facilities. It was also the driving force in his quest to visit a place he missed so much: the gym.

When Driver’s roommate at the time, Zane Davis, heard about the accident that following morning, he immediately jumped up and began getting ready.

“What are you doing?” his girlfriend asked him.

“I have to go.” Davis replied. “I have to go to Indy, to go see him.”

After finally getting talked down and understanding there was nothing he could do at that time, Davis decided to wait for more news. The days passed and Driver finally awoke. A visit to the rehabilitation facility was finally coming to fruition.

When Davis walked into the room, he immediately noticed the muscles his roommate worked so hard for had waned. There was a moment where he was unsure how Driver would respond to the current predicament, but that quickly passed.

“The first thing he talked about was Steve Nash being signed to the Lakers for some ridiculous contract,” Davis said, thinking back to that first visit. “And he rattled off the exact years and numbers that it was and I was just thinking to myself ‘You were just in this terrible accident and you’re rattling off Steve Nash contracts like you were reading the paper today.’”

Two weeks after the interaction, and two days before Christmas, Alex Driver was discharged from the rehab facility and able to return home. Most people at this point would take the time to rest in their own bed and let time heal their wounds, but the gym had been calling his name for nearly two months. He had to do something.

So only a few hours after returning home, he made his return to the gym and following a very light workout, Driver took a seat at the juice bar. As people approached him in his bulky neck brace the doctors said he needed to wear for the time being. “How are you feeling?” they’d walk up and ask.

“At least I didn’t have to take any finals.”

The more he could get back in the gym, the more normal things began to feel. The muscles started to return and the milestones began to pileup. The accident damaged his occipital lobe, leaving him legally blind, but his demeanor and anchor-arm appearance, remained the same as before.

“[Lifting] was kind of the reason I survived,” Driver said. “So, getting back in the swing of things could show that I was stronger than the car accident. Not really letting it define me and kind of take anything on. Besides, I’m not going to feel sorry for myself or bad about myself – just come back from it.”

The quick turnaround from leaving the hospital to being back in the gym surprised some people, including his roommate. Some time off definitely wouldn’t have hurt. But in those early weeks, the lifting was used as mental therapy as much as a physical one.

“I think a part of that was getting his strength back and everything,” Davis said, “but I think the other part was getting a routine. It was something he was familiar with, something he enjoyed.”

Driver continues to stick with the routine and now rarely misses a day. The dedication allowed him to get back to where he had been, and then surpass it.

Going to the gym saved his life and now defines who he is even more than before.

“He literally goes on Christmas,” Davis said with a laugh.