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Fábregas: ‘Iron Meg’ grateful for return to health after biking accident

Family and friends call her Iron Meg.

When you hear her story, you’ll understand why. Megan Kruth’s tale of survival from a tragic biking accident resonates with themes of gratitude and perseverance. And, boy, did she persevere.

On the morning of Aug. 4, 2013, Kruth and a friend went on a bike ride just outside North Park. The second-grade teacher at Hance Elementary in Richland had taken that route many times before, about five miles from her house in McCandless.

For reasons that remain unclear, the bike’s front tire got stuck between a small bridge and the road. She was thrown off the bike, slamming her head against the pavement.

The impact broke her helmet. She began to bleed from her ears and nose. Her friend called 911. By the time she arrived by ambulance at Allegheny General Hospital, Kruth was unconscious. She’d remain in a coma for 10 days.

“I don’t remember anything,” Kruth, 42, told me this week.

Before I tell you the rest of the story, let me tell you about Meg. Iron Meg, that is. She grew up a swimmer and took on the sport at Westminster College. She picked up biking along the way and a passion for Ironman triathlons, the grueling long-distance races that combine swimming, cycling and running. She completed two full triathlons, one in Louisville in 2009 and another in Wisconsin in 2012. In between those, she managed to squeeze seven half-Ironman races.

“For me, that competitive edge as well as just getting out there and staying healthy was important,” she said.

Kruth was surprisingly calm when I asked about the accident. Throughout her yearlong recovery, she rarely asked herself “Why me?” — the inevitable philosophical question that springs up in the midst of tragedy.

“I haven’t dwelled on it too much. I just consider it a freak accident that I happened to be there,” she said.

She could’ve sulked. Big time. She briefly lost her memory. She underwent five cranial surgeries, including one on the day she arrived at the hospital in which surgeons removed part of her skull to relieve pressure in the brain. Doctors had to fix her clavicle, and therapists taught her to walk, eat and maintain her balance. They said her top physical shape saved her life.

And so did her attitude. She recalled how a therapist at UPMC Mercy wanted to take her outside the facility for fresh air. The therapist asked if she’d like to take the elevator or the stairs. Kruth chose the stairs.

“It’s the mindset from the training. It’s that same attitude: Let’s not take the short way out; let’s keep going,” she said.

If she never lost hope, it’s because she had the support of her parents, George and Mary Lou Kruth of Allison Park. She moved into their home while recovering and says that without them, she wouldn’t have made it.

Meg reserved the most praise for the nurses, workers and doctors who cared for her and befriended her at Allegheny General. Even when their shifts ended, they stopped by to see her. They often stayed a little longer because they know the value of precious extra minutes when caring for someone in Kruth’s shoes.

“Amazing. Above and beyond,” she said about her neurosurgeon, Dr. Khaled Aziz.

Kruth is back to running, though not at the same pace as before. And better yet, she plans to return to teaching in January. Imagine how much her students will learn from her experience. They, too, will have something to be grateful about.

Luis Fábregas is Trib Total Media’s medical editor. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or [email protected].


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