Doctor's Daughter

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It was just two months ago that 11-year-old Sara De Witt was laying on a New Mexico highway as emergency medical workers feared they would not be able to save her life.

Today, Sara is back home in Payson, back playing flute in the Rim Country Middle School band, back practicing the piano, and back in her tap and jazz classes.

"There's no question in my mind," said the fifth-grader's mother, Julie De Witt. "Sara's recovery is a miracle."

But it is not yet complete.

"She's not back in school yet," Julie said. "She's doing speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy every day. She still has a couple of areas of deficit, mostly in memory skills. She can recall events really well; new information is what she's struggling with a little bit. But I think that's going to come back with a little bit of time and hard work. She's just absolutely phenomenal."

That is no exaggeration, considering the injuries Sara suffered Jan. 5, when the car she and her mother were riding in rolled over three times. Sara was ejected from the vehicle and suffered three very serious skull fractures, as well as a broken clavicle.

Even when doctors concluded that she would likely not die from her injuries, they did fear along with her father, Payson pediatrician Dr. Dexter De Witt that Sara had suffered a disastrous level of brain damage.

But three days later, Sara opened her eyes and began to talk. A month later, she was sent home from the Carrie-Tingley Hospital in Albuquerque, N.M. And now, Julie De Witt is certain her daughter will make a complete recovery.

Between now and then, however, Sara and her parents will be taking things one day at a time.

"Once she gets back in school, we're going to start with just one class at a time, and add others back into her schedule as she progresses. Math seems to be where she's having a little extra difficulty right now, which could become frustrating for her because she was a straight-A student and very competitive."

Although Sara remembers the moments directly before the crash, that's where her recollections of the accident stop, her mother said.

Everything else, though, is coming back to her.

"Sara was taking part of a vocabulary test a couple of days ago, and she said, 'There were several words, Mom, that were familiar.' I said, 'Like what?' And she said, 'Like fracture. I knew what that meant!'"

During that test, Sara also recognized the word "miracle." And "ordeal."

"The support of this community has meant so much to our family," Julie said. "The people who have prayed for her, who have called to offer to do anything they could ...

"Even at the scene of an accident, there must have been 15 or 20 people who stopped and helped gather up our belongings, which had been scattered all over the highway. We got back everything that was in the car, and it had been packed ... I half-expected that some stuff would just disappear, but nothing disappeared.

"Other people stopped just to give me a hug, or to say, 'I'll pray for you ... She'll be OK ... They'll take good care of her.' It's frustrating to know that I'll never be able to thank all those people. I can't begin to tell you what those tiny gestures meant to me."

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