One August day in 2009, Terri Fiala Menghini, ’86, and her family were midflight as their plane began to experience severe turbulence. When she saw the concern spreading across her kids’ faces, Menghini, said: “Don’t worry; if God wanted to take me, it would’ve happened a week ago.”
Bolt from the blue
Just days before, as Menghini biked along a highway in the Colorado foothills, lightning struck her — entering her neck and passing through her heart before exiting through her leg. Menghini lost consciousness and found herself in the hospital, where she began to understand what had happened.
The lightning briefly stopped her heart, but a series of fortunate coincidences helped her survive. When she fell from her bike she landed hard on her left side, which restarted her heart. Then drivers spotted her and quickly called emergency personnel.
Perhaps luckiest of all, Menghini was at peak physical condition thanks to months spent training for her first Ironman Triathlon, a grueling competition consisting of swimming, biking and running events.
“I was in the best shape of my life,” she said. “And I felt like I’d been given a second chance at life.”
The unexpected challenge
Instead of competing in her first Ironman, Menghini applied her strength and determination toward recovery.
Immediately following the strike, she couldn’t see, and her arms were paralyzed. She regained movement within four hours; within six months, her 20/20 vision was restored.
And although doctors were initially concerned with how the strike had affected her heart, she finally made it to Ironman the following year.
Reaching her goals
A lifelong athlete, Menghini has now completed seven Ironman Triathlons and 150 marathons. Her favorite events include the London Marathon and the Kona Ironman in Hawaii, where she was one of just 100 participants selected from a lottery of 40,000.
Menghini, a former high school volleyball and track coach, thrives on the thrill of competition — something she refined during her time as a defensive specialist and outside hitter under legendary Missouri State volleyball coach Linda Dollar.
Menghini’s marathon success has roots in those days, when Dollar required the team to run miles at Phelps Grove Park.
“I thought I hated running,” Menghini remembered, laughing. But once she started, she never looked back.
Susan Cooper, ’80, who suggested this profile on Menghini, summed up her friend: “She’s a phenomenal athlete, role model and parent.”