Just six weeks after being seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident, a Middlebury teen is making a remarkable recovery.
17-year-old Zion Carlstrom was riding her bike along C.R. 35 with her brother in July when a car hit her from behind.
The driver, Pasquale Rulli, left the scene before later turning himself in to police.
Zion was flown to a South Bend hospital in critical condition.
Over the past month, friends and family say they’ve seen drastic, positive changes in the teen.
From the beginning, their biggest worry was the damage the accident did to her brain.
“There's a lot of things that happened with brain pressure during that time and you spend a lot of your time going does this mean it's ok? Does this mean it's ok?” said Zion’s dad Blair Carlstrom.
Zion suffered serious leg and brain injuries in the accident, giving her a tough battle ahead.
But just six weeks after being hit, Zion’s proving she’s a fighter.
“She’s talking and walking and eating by herself,” said her brother Hezekiah Carlstrom. “It’s spectacular.”
Zion can also read and has been scoring 100 percent on quizzes nurses at the rehab facility have been giving her.
That indicates her short-term memory may be OK.
“Lots of good stuff is being seen, it's just going to take a while for us to find out if she's going to come all the way back or not,” Blair said. “We still have that question.”
There are, of course, many tough days – and many more ahead.
But, the kindness of the community and complete strangers helps Zion’s family stay strong.
“Someone down in Muncie has made prayer bracelets and they’ve never met Zion,” said her friend Bethanie Riley.
Middlebury residents have also taken turns mowing the Carlstrom’s lawn, clearing their house and bringing them meals as they travel back and forth between their home and Indianapolis.
“We've liked to be on the side of the giving thing and to be on the receiving end of this much love and support, it's been very overwhelming,” Blair said.
But all of the support means Zion’s friends and family can focus on helping her get better – and they hope along the way she’ll get back her signature spunk.
“When she's completely healed, able to come home, walking around, being Zion, I hope she can say ‘Woo hoo,’” said Zion’s friend Ashley Hooley. “She will.”
A fundraiser for Zion is being held Sunday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Mishawaka’s University Park Mall.
At least 10 percent of the sales will be donated to Zion’s family to help cover her medical costs.