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Former teacher-coach recovering from March accident in Altoona

SAXTON — Dave Albright’s yard looks pristine.

He wishes he could take the credit.

One of his close friends, Glen Carbaugh, had just completed the goodwill grass-cutting gesture while Albright continues his recovery from a serious car accident two months ago.

At 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 23, Albright was in the right lane of the 17th Street exit, attempting to merge onto I-99 when suddenly a vehicle coming down 17th Street (from Logan Town Centre) crossed the median and slammed into him head-on.

Tragically, the other driver, Diane DeRose, 67, of East Freedom, was killed.

Somehow, Albright wasn’t.

“Just a split second, and it could have been so much worse,” he was saying quietly from a recliner in the basement of his home, a walker and wheelchair nearby. “I never saw her coming.”

Albright, 68, suffered eight broken ribs, a fractured right ankle, a fractured sternum, a dislocated left thumb and broken teeth when the airbags exploded.

He was conscious after impact and can remember hearing the sirens blaring of the ambulances that arrived quickly.

Jordan Klausman of Altoona, who was passing Albright on the left of the two-lane I-99 ramp and just missed being hit himself, was the first on the scene.

“I heard Jordan asking me who he could call,” Albright said.

Klausman called Albright’s wife, Lynda. He was raced to UPMC Altoona and then flown to Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he underwent surgery “immediately.”

“On the way to (UPMC) Altoona, I remember being in the ambulance and them manually trying to realign my ankle and my thumb,” he said. “And my neck was in such agony.”

Albright thanked Dr. Kenneth Lee (neck), Dr. Alexander Spiess (hand), Dr. Peter Siska (orthopedic) calling them “fantastic surgeons.”

He was released from Presbyterian Hospital on March 31 and spent three weeks at Homewood’s Tenley Rehabilitation Unit before coming home a month ago.

“If the normal head weighs 8 pounds,” he said, “mine feels like it weighs 25. There’s still a lot of tightness in my neck and upper back.”

His ankle injury is such that “I kind of push and hop” with his walker.

“It might be another month (before he’s walking),” Albright said. “They initially said eight to 12 weeks, but I just got some good news (Thursday) that I can start weight-bearing.”

His daughter, Ashley, lives in Ashburn, Virginia, but since the accident “she’s worked from here remotely, and that’s been a big help,” Albright said.

He’s been back and forth to Pittsburgh several times. He has in-home physical therapy twice a week, and Home Nursing visits once a week.

The former second grade elementary teacher at Tussey Mountain, who retired in 2009, is well known here and in Blair County.

He was a key member of Central High School’s 1972 Mountain League championship basketball team before playing at Millersville University and then for nearly 20 years in the Mansion Park Summer League.

Known for his sweet-shooting touch and even disposition, Albright was part of the most famous game in the history of the Mansion (now Lakemont) League when Mr. Donut defeated The Hill before a crowd five-deep that circled the court.

“Those were good days,” he said.

He also spent 22 years as Dave Bailey’s assistant at Tussey Mountain.

Albright has felt all of those relationships during the past two months — the care shown by coaches Bailey, Don Appleman and Dave Baker, Carbaugh’s mowing, the rides from longtime friend Kevin Feath, the visits from Reggie Nevins, Mike Kennedy, Steve Metzger and the Snyders, Jim and Pat, along with the support of his church, First Church of Brethren in Roaring Spring, and its pastor, Dave Crumrine.

“Overwhelming,” Albright kept saying. “I can’t say enough thank-yous for the support I’ve felt through all this.”

Appleman and his wife, Debbie, visited in Pittsburgh just days after the accident.

“It was really a shock to us,” Appleman said. “He looks so much better. He was all bundled up the first week, a total wreck from head to foot. He’s doing extremely well.”

Albright was on his way home from a chiropractor appointment.

“I had hernia surgery in February and was just cleared the day before (March 22) to go back to normal activities,” he said.

He often returns on Pleasant Valley Boulevard and takes Logan Boulevard to the Catfish. On this day, he went I-99.

After first checking on Albright, Klausman sprinted to the guardrail to see if he could assist DeRose. In the meantime, AMED and other emergency units arrived.

Klausman called it, “the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. It scared the crap out of me.”

The two have remained in touch.

“Dave called me about a week ago,” Klausman, 35, said. “It was nice to hear his voice again. I told him we’re praying for him. I can’t wait to see him and have coffee with him.”

Because he can’t climb steps, Albright sleeps in his new downstairs recliner — surprisingly well, he said.

“Do I get flashbacks? Yeah, I do,” he said. “Every now and then, something will pop into my head about the accident, but so far, it hasn’t affected my sleep.”

Albright said he’s always been faithful but even more so now. He was initially reluctant to share his story, let alone be photographed, then decided, “If it’s something I can do to help another individual in my situation, that’s what I can do.

“The one thing people need to do is believe in the faith of God,” he said. “I’ve always been a believer in Christianity, but this has only strengthened it — to have the mobility with this neck injury and not be paralyzed is due to the grace of God.”

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