Beloved Rowan County teacher, coach recovering from devastating motorcycle accident

Jan Dowling says her medical team is amazed she survived the accident
Jan Dowling says her medical team is amazed she survived the accident
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 4:49 PM EST
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - The day after she came home from spending more than two weeks in the hospital following a devastating motorcycle accident, a well-known and well-loved teacher and coach at a local high school is counting her blessings.

“To know that by every doctor that I saw that I should not be here, like they all told me. ‘You should not be here; you should have died,’” Jan Dowling said. “I never thought that I was going to die. It never entered my mind that I was going to die.”

Dowling coaches volleyball at West Rowan High School. She says that the crash was so bad that her doctors told her that they were amazed that she lived through it.

“She never saw me and just pulled out in front of me,” Dowling said, recounting the crash that happened on Sides Road in eastern Rowan County a little more than two weeks ago.

A driver pulled out in front of Dowling’s motorcycle and Dowling’s Harley-Davidson slammed into the side of the car.

“And I’m just rolling on the ground saying Jesus help me, Jesus help, Jesus help me, Jesus,” Dowling said.

The crash nearly killed her.

“I was just bleeding out,” she added.

Dowling says that once she was placed in the ambulance she asked the paramedics if they would pray for her.

“I immediately asked for them to pray with me and they prayed,” Dowling added. “That meant a lot to me because I was in a lot of pain, and, I told them thank you. That made me feel so much more calm, so much more confident.”

She spent two weeks at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, sustained, she says, by a great medical team and by her faith.

“I know my Lord and savior saved me,” Dowling said. “To know that my Lord kept me on this earth for a reason makes me want to be even a better person than I was, making sure I’m doing the right things for me those around me. I just feel like I know God has a plan because otherwise I wouldn’t be here. If I would have died I would have went to Heaven, I would have been with my Lord and savior and I said but I’m alive and I’m with my earthly family and I just feel like, how blessed can one person be? I’m just so blessed. I want everybody to remember that don’t take life for granted, just like that your life can change, make sure you’re ready if your life comes to an end.”

There are adjustments. A new wheelchair ramp was built on the front of her house by friends from West Rowan.

“It’s really weird being in your house, wheeling, instead of being up. My dog doesn’t know what to think, she’s freaked out by the wheelchair. It’s a lot but I mean it’s good, I’m home.”

The hard-charging competitive coach can’t be as active as would like, at least not yet.

“I stretch three times a day. I have a workout regimen that I have to do, upper body, I do it, they’re concerned because I can only use my shoulders and upper body,” Dowling said. “Try to keep my mind busy.”

The support from her family and friends have been overwhelming. Her players can’t wait to see her back on the court.

“She’s a very very straightforward person and she’s going to tell you what she’s thinking and she pushes all the people around her to be better and she strives for everyone and herself to be better,” said West Rowan volleyball players Emma Clarke and Lucy McLean Shelton. “She’s a very big role model here at West Rowan and everyone here loves her and respects her and her drive and her passion with not only coaching and also teaching.”

“It’s been a miracle really. Everyone, especially me was really nervous and was like oh my gosh what’s happening right now and it truly is a miracle and if there is anyone here who can go through this and do what she did, it would be her,” Clarke added.

“When it first happened my heart dropped but if anyone could do it it would be her that she would make it through,” Shelton said.

“Jan is a woman of faith and I knew that, she’s probably the strongest woman on this campus but her faith is as strong as her physical ability. I knew that if anyone could recover from such a traumatic accident that it would be Jan Dowling,” said parent Erin Shelton.

And that fitness helped save her life, her doctors said. Now it’s about doing the rehab, completing the recovery, and getting back to campus.

“I think that has a lot to do with the way I was raised. We don’t give up. We don’t quit. We fight. We fight to the end,” Dowling said. “It might take me a while but I’ll be back. I’m going to be back. I’ll be back in the gym, I’ll be back doing the things that I love. I miss my kids. I miss my kids and I miss that school. I miss being a part and it’s been overwhelming, it’s been super humbling to me. I never see myself like that, I just do my job and to the best of my ability.”