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Texas TV meteorologist describes 2008 near-death incident

January 10, 2019

VICTORIA, Texas (AP) — Bill Alexander opened his eyes Nov. 23, 2008, and saw a young man standing over him.

“Mr. Alexander ... you have been in a coma since Nov. 17, when you were brought into this hospital.”

The Victoria Advocate reports Alexander remembers hearing that and realizing he was connected to a respirator, tubes and IV connections. He was placed on a bed that rotated every so often.

The now-TV weatherman learned on that day, just over 10 years ago, that he had survived an ordeal that should have killed him.

For the better part of a decade, Alexander has been a household name in the Crossroads, and area residents make plans based on what he says.

He smiles in a suit and tie as he explains weather patterns. His voice often plays in the background as residents prepare for their day, when they return home from work and again in the evening before bedtime.

But the chief meteorologist for Newscenter25 didn’t always work in broadcast journalism. He recently shared how the difficult experience led him to work in Victoria.

It’s a rainy day. An active weather day.

Alexander, 66, sits at the weather forecasting system inside the KAVU-TV station’s studio. His equipment is set up just outside the “weather cave” he shares with meteorologist Trey Meynig.

Meynig walks out of his office and they plan coverage for the day. Alexander says his co-worker has tolerated him for the past eight years.

Earlier that morning, Alexander was sworn in as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children.

His wife, Adalia “Dolly” Alexander, is a dedicated CASA volunteer and clinical mental health counselor.

Her vision has deteriorated because of diabetes, and Alexander wants to be able to drive her to work. Mostly, though, he jokes, he just tries to stay out of her way.

Alexander helped his wife get through graduate school by reading documents to her because at that time, much of the material was not available in large print or in closed-captioned format.

“That’s the kind of thing that you do,” he said.

Alexander said thankfully, he has no recollection about the health scare that occurred in 2008 or the days immediately afterward.

“I was circling the drain,” he said, but his wife refused to give up on him: “She fought for my very existence.”

He remembers that night he went to bed late after eating a bowl of very hot chili that he made. He developed indigestion and had taken a couple of sleeping pills to get to sleep because he had planned to work the next day.

“In my sleep, I had an acid reflux attack and aspirated the chili into my lungs,” he said. Because of the sleeping pills, he did not wake up and went into cardiopulmonary arrest.

“My wife noted me not moving and not breathing and called 911,” he said. “The long story short, I went 20 minutes without oxygen to my brain. But I survived.”

Alexander had permanent brain and lung damage. Doctors didn’t expect that he would ever fully regain his independence and would live out the rest of his life in a nursing facility.

Incredibly, in the months after he woke up from the coma, he learned how to use his arms and legs again and how to write and interact with others.

He credits his unlikely recovery to his wife, whom he met at college in Corpus Christi. “She hated me,” he chuckled. They now have a grown son and two grandchildren.

At the time of the incident, they were living in El Paso, where he was a senior manager at the National Weather Service.

During his 35 years with the government weather agency, he earned two Department of Commerce Bronze medals — one for redesigned severe weather warnings and the other for exceptional work during the disastrous El Paso flash floods of 2006.

He returned to work in March 2009, but excruciating headaches and stiffness in his neck and shoulders led him to retire the next month.

His brain eventually remapped around the damaged areas, but those headaches have never gone away. “I allow it to remind me that I am still alive,” he said.

Meteorology was all he knew, and he wondered what he would do with the rest of his life. He saw a vacancy for a television weather person in Victoria.

An extreme introvert, he auditioned anyway. General Manager Jeff Pryor and the late Don Bradley, who was the news director at the time, gave him a chance.

“I did not know if I could ever be useful again, but I am forever thankful for the patience of my supervisors and peers at KAVU,” he said. “I was pretty bad for a few months but, by God’s grace, was able to reinvent myself.”

When asked about his status as a small-town celebrity, he said it gets tiring at times. He describes running to H-E-B for a sack of potatoes: By the time he checks out, he’s given three or four weather forecasts and taken a few selfies.

Still, Alexander loves his job. He produces several live and recorded weather forecasts on six networks throughout the day and serves as a mentor to up-and-coming broadcasters at the station, which is ranked 203 of 210 media markets in the United States.

Crossroads residents, he says, have a vested interest in the weather. This region is home to farmers, ranchers, fishermen, aviators and workers in the oil and gas business: “We need to be more technical here.”

He said covering Hurricane Harvey, which struck in August 2017, was exhausting but vitally important to the community. The news crew was continuously on air for 48 hours, livestreaming online and powered by a generator.

And when all of the big networks left, he said, the local TV and newspaper staff continued reporting on the community.

“That was a situation when people were in danger and their lives depended on how well we performed,” Alexander said.

When Leigh Waldman was hired in July 2017 as an anchor, she said, Alexander helped make her transition from Lubbock much easier.

She said his wealth of knowledge goes beyond the weather.

“Having Bill in studio with me every evening is a true blessing,” she said. “He offers moral support during the tough days, a comedic break and, most importantly, a friendly shoulder to lean on.”

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Information from: The Victoria Advocate, http://www.victoriaadvocate.com

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