I thought it would be emotional to hear 14-year-old Alex Otte of Lexington tell her story about the horrific accident last summer on Herrington Lake when she was on a jet ski, hit by a boat driven by a drunk driver and lost her right leg. However, I had no idea just how heartwarming the story I heard at the Ohio UK Convention in Middletown, Ohio, would be.
First, Laura Otte, Alex’s mother, told about the “dumb decision I wish we could take back to put the boat in the water” that day and watching with her son when her daughter was “mowed down” by the boat.
Laura, a Lincoln County native, is a house administrator for Saint Joseph Hospital. But she’s also a former helicopter flight nurse and that enabled her to react as calmly as a mother could and keep her daughter’s broken neck aligned and also keep her airway open.
Laura’s ex-husband, Joe, who owned the lake house where they were, is a former water rescue Marine. He somehow kept his daughter afloat while Laura kept the airway open. Once Alex was out of the water, Joe placed a call to a friend, Dr. Joseph Richardson, who was a medical director of a flight service and miraculously found an empty rescue helicopter only six minutes away.
Still, Laura was prepared for the worst. She did not think her daughter would live. “I told her she was the best thing ever and I would love her forever,” Laura said as tears rolled down her cheeks even a year later. “I knew she was gone. Even if she did survive, I knew there was probably no brain activitiy.”
However, Alex Otte not only survived, but she’s flourishing with a prosthetic leg.
“I do still have a brain,” Alex Otte said in her first remarks at the Ohio UK Convention as she smiled broadly at the folks hanging on her every word.
She told the group how the accident led to former UK star Josh Harrellson coming to see her in the hospital at a friend’s request and becoming a family friend sent her several texts even while she was talking at the convention. She also brought a game jersey that Harrellson autographed and gave her. “I might wear it to our prom as a dress,” she joked.
She’s still amazed that he came to her school last May not only to see her, but stayed and played basketball with classmates for almost two hours.
“It’s amazing to think how these guys are just basketball players and are not cool or anything,” Alex, who is back playing basketball herself, said. “But they are incredible people. They are not just how you see them on the court. They all have incredible stories behind them. Josh just made me feel incredibly special.”
She says she is still not quite sure why she took her leg off for Harrellson to sign, but doing that ended any debate about whether she would be allowed to have a tattoo.
“She told me, ‘Mom, I do not need a tattoo. Having Josh’s autograph on my leg is better than that,’” Laura Otte said.
Harrellson took Alex Otte to an exhibition game in Harrodsburg and later had her and her family join him, Patrick Patterson and Perry Stevenson for dinner.
“Josh stole the crayons and coloring page from my brother. Patrick colored the head on the picture and (my brother) Tyler the shirt and pants. I thought Josh was going to cry because they did that,” Alex said.
Later Alex talked the three former UK players to try karoke. They sang three sogs.
“Josh thinks he’s a good singer, but he can’t sing at all,” Alex, who plans to go to New York to see Harrellson play for the Knicks, said.
However, he can make a family smile and Laura Otte again noted how appreciative her family will always be for what he did for Alex and continues to do.
“I went from having a son who didn’t even know who the New York¿Knicks were to having him text me all night of the draft about where Josh was going (he ended up with the Knicks),” Laura said.
“I am just so proud that UK helps instill great character in these athletes and they represent the state the way they did.
“I can never tell you as a mom how much I appreciate what he did for my daughter. Words just can’t express it or tell how much he’s helped Alex through this incredible time in her life.”