Gayle, who is married to West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, was hospitalized in Alabama for a couple of days after she and her colleague were injured during a business trip
Gayle, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, was in Birmingham on Jan. 29 for a grant workshop when she and her coworker were caught in a collision and hospitalized. She tells PEOPLE that days after her release, she is continuing to improve.
“Following our unfortunate car accident in Birmingham last week, my colleague Guy Land and I are healing and feeling very thankful,” Gayle, 76, says. “I credit my ongoing improvement to the exceptional, extraordinary care I received from the University of Alabama Birmingham trauma medical team."
Sen. Manchin broke the news of his wife's hospitalization last Tuesday, noting that she was in "stable condition" but would remain in Alabama for a couple of days as a precaution. The Appalachian Regional Commission explained in its own statement that Gayle and Land were traveling from the Birmingham airport to their hotel when another vehicle struck theirs.
ARC revealed on Wednesday that Gayle had been discharged and was returning to West Virginia to continue her recovery "with support from her family." Land was discharged on Thursday and returned to Washington, D.C., according to the commission.
Reflecting on the unexpected events of the past week, Gayle tells PEOPLE that she remains "eternally grateful to the city’s emergency responders — from the EMTs to the police — for their swift, professional action in the immediate aftermath of the accident."
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Prior to joining ARC, Gayle was a central figure in West Virginian government. After serving as the Mountain State's first lady from 2005 to 2010, she held positions as president of the West Virginia Board of Education from 2013 to 2014 and the state's secretary of education and the arts from 2017 to 2018.
Gayle's husband, Democratic Sen. Manchin, has been in the news recently for mulling a possible third-party presidential run after making a surprise announcement in November that he wouldn't seek reelection to the U.S. Senate. Before joining the Senate in a 2010 special election, he served as the West Virginia governor.
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