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Teen who lost both legs in drunk driver accident is welcomed home from the hospital with a parade

A Utah high schooler who is paralyzed from the waist down and had both her legs amputated after being hit by a drunk driver this summer finally came home from the hospital in October — and her friends, family, and neighbors celebrated her homecoming with a parade.

Sarah Frei, 17, was in a car with three friends on July 30 when a drunk driver hit them head-on, leaving all of them injured, but Sarah the most grievously so.

But after nearly three months at Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital in Salt Lake City, the Clearfield High School senior was finally cleared to return to her house, and her loved ones made sure to pull out all the stops to welcome her back.

Accident: Sarah Frei, 17, had both her legs amputated after being hit by a drunk driver this summer finally came home from the hospital in October

Ta-da! Her friends, family, and neighbors celebrated her homecoming with a parade

Ta-da! Her friends, family, and neighbors celebrated her homecoming with a parade

Emotional moment: Photos from the big day show the 17-year-old breaking down in tears as she takes in the huge show of support

Emotional moment: Photos from the big day show the 17-year-old breaking down in tears as she takes in the huge show of support

Exciting: First, her doctors, nurses, and physical therapists joined up with the University of Utah cheerleading squad to send her off

Exciting: First, her doctors, nurses, and physical therapists joined up with the University of Utah cheerleading squad to send her off

A police escort then followed her home, where friends, family, and neighbors had come together in a parade

A police escort then followed her home, where friends, family, and neighbors had come together in a parade

Sarah, a cheerleader and member of the golf team in Syracuse, was stranded with her friends for nearly an hour this summer after a drunk driver slammed into them.

‘She was internally bleeding, had damage to her abdominal aorta, a broken back and spinal cord injuries at her T12 and L2 vertebrae, a broken ankle, and facial fractures,’ her loved ones wrote on the @strong.like.sarah Instagram page.

‘She has undergone several surgeries where she lost 30% of her intestines, had a back fusion from T12-L4, and had to have both legs amputated at mid thigh. She was also confirmed paralyzed from the waist down.’

It’s been an uphill battle, with 20 surgeries, fevers, and an infection — and during her time in the ICU, she was only allowed to have one parent visit her at a time.

But Sarah has fought for her recovery, starting physical therapy and keeping her spirits up. She eventually was able to move from the ICU to a regular room.

Sweet! There were balloons, signs, and custom T-shirts, as Sarah's classmates and loved ones came together to cheer her on

Sweet! There were balloons, signs, and custom T-shirts, as Sarah’s classmates and loved ones came together to cheer her on

Sarah, a cheerleader and member of the golf team in Syracuse, was stranded with her friends for nearly an hour this summer after a drunk driver slammed into them

Sarah, a cheerleader and member of the golf team in Syracuse, was stranded with her friends for nearly an hour this summer after a drunk driver slammed into them

Following her story: Sarah's recovery has been documented on an Instagram account

Following her story: Sarah’s recovery has been documented on an Instagram account

Rah, rah! Her cheerleading team visited her at the hospital and were there for the parade

Rah, rah! Her cheerleading team visited her at the hospital and were there for the parade

The huge crowd was there to make her transition home a supportive one

The huge crowd was there to make her transition home a supportive one

It’s certainly helped that in addition to family keeping her company, her friends — including her entire cheerleading squad — have stopped by once she was allowed to have more visitors. 

Sarah even had a date to her senior homecoming dance, who stopped by to take pictures with her and eat dinner before taking her along to the dance virtually via FaceTime, since she couldn’t leave the hospital.  

Finally, on October 15, Sarah was cleared to go home, where her parents had set up a new wheelchair-accessible bedroom for her. 

What she wasn’t expecting was how many people would make the moment extra special.

First, her doctors, nurses, and physical therapists joined up with the University of Utah cheerleading squad to send her off.

Hospitalized: She since undergone 20 surgeries, including a double leg amputation

Hospitalized: She since undergone 20 surgeries, including a double leg amputation

It's been an uphill battle, with surgeries, fevers, and an infection ¿ and during her time in the ICU, she was only allowed to have one parent visit her at a time.

It’s been an uphill battle, with surgeries, fevers, and an infection — and during her time in the ICU, she was only allowed to have one parent visit her at a time.

Spinal injuries: She was also confirmed paralyzed from the waist down

Spinal injuries: She was also confirmed paralyzed from the waist down

Working at it: But Sarah kept a smile and soon started physical therapy

Working at it: But Sarah kept a smile and soon started physical therapy

A police escort then followed her home, where friends, family, and neighbors had come together in a parade.

There were balloons, signs, and custom T-shirts, as Sarah’s classmates and loved ones came together to cheer her on.

Photos from the big day show the teenager breaking down in tears as she takes in the huge show of support. 

‘I had no idea how many people would come. It was awesome,’ she told Today

‘I didn’t realize how big it could be,’ she added to GMA. ‘Once we’d pass [people], they’d join in behind, holding signs.’

Sarah’s mom, Amy Frei, is in awe of her daughter’s upbeat attitude.

Meanwhile, the man who hit Sarah and her friends, Dustin Wesley Andersen, 45, has been charged with four counts of driving under the influence (not pictured)

Meanwhile, the man who hit Sarah and her friends, Dustin Wesley Andersen, 45, has been charged with four counts of driving under the influence (not pictured)

Go, girl! Sarah's mom, Amy Frei, is in awe of her daughter's upbeat attitude

Go, girl! Sarah’s mom, Amy Frei, is in awe of her daughter’s upbeat attitude

'She has such a positive outlook on this and is saying, "I am going to be OK. Don¿t be sad for me. I am going to be fine,"' she told Today

‘She has such a positive outlook on this and is saying, “I am going to be OK. Don’t be sad for me. I am going to be fine,”‘ she told Today

'What is so cute about Sarah is when she is talking to her friends, nothing has changed. Now the question is: how am I going to get into my friend¿s pool?' she said

‘What is so cute about Sarah is when she is talking to her friends, nothing has changed. Now the question is: how am I going to get into my friend’s pool?’ she said

‘She has such a positive outlook on this and is saying, “I am going to be OK. Don’t be sad for me. I am going to be fine,”‘ she told Today.

‘What is so cute about Sarah is when she is talking to her friends, nothing has changed. Now the question is: how am I going to get into my friend’s pool? It’s not I’ll never do this or that… it’s about how will I do it now?

‘It’s moving on and realizing this isn’t going to define her life. She will do whatever she wants to do.’

Meanwhile, the man who hit Sarah and her friends, Dustin Wesley Andersen, 45, has been charged with four counts of driving under the influence: three third-degree felonies and one class-A misdemeanor.




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