Sarah Frei, 17, was driving with three friends when an intoxicated driver hit them on July 20. This accident completely changed the Utah teenager’s life. Frei had to get both legs amputated. Despite this, she became an inspiration to her community and people all around the world. When she left the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital in Salt Lake City on October 14, the community celebrated her return with a homecoming parade.
An Emotional Homecoming
On that fateful night, the teens had to wait almost an hour for an ambulance to arrive since there was no cell service in that area. All were injured, but Sarah was in the worst shape. She had internal bleeding, a broken back, a broken ankle, facial fractures, and damage to her abdominal aorta. Because of the harm done to her spine, she became paralyzed from the waist down and had to have both legs amputated at mid-thigh. During all of these procedures, she lay intubated with her hands strapped down to stop her from removing the tubes.
After 20 grueling surgeries, Frei was able to return home. Medical personnel, including physical therapies, and the cheerleading squad from the University of Utah came together to give her a happy send-off, but that was just the beginning of the celebration.
Frei received a police escort home as she witnessed a welcome home parade. Friends, family members neighbors, and even strangers lined the road in support of Frei with blue balloons and posters welcoming her home and encouraging her to stay strong.
Inspiring the World
After the accident, Sarah and her family started an Instagram account to share her story. The Instagram page now has 63.8 thousand followers from all over the world, cheering Sarah on.
“We get several comments a day on her Instagram page from strangers that say, ‘You’ve inspired me,’” said Sarah’s mom, Amy Frei. “It’s amazing to hear. I told Sarah it is her smile and outlook. On one of her posts, she was talking to her aunts and how what happened has happened. There is nothing she can do about that. But she said, ‘I can control my attitude and how I react.’ That has been a good lesson for everyone to hear.”
Making the Most of a Difficult Situation
Initially, only one parent at a time was able to visit Sarah, but as restrictions lessened, she was able to spend time with her siblings and friends.
When Sarah’s senior homecoming dance came in September, two of her friends and her date came to the hospital wearing masks. Sarah was all dressed up and did her own hair and makeup while a nurse painted her nails. Her friends brought her dinner and posed for pictures before virtually taking her out for the evening.
While she was in the hospital, Sarah learned a dance her cheer squad choreographed for her. The day after her homecoming, she joined them in the final game, wearing her uniform and a huge smile.
“I think that was probably the one thing she was looking forward to the most, just hoping that she would be able to go to that game and have that experience her senior year, the last football game,” said Sarah’s mother. “The timing of her coming home that Tuesday and the game being that Wednesday, it was pretty amazing that she felt good and was able to do it.” 
Frei is learning virtually from home, but she intends to make the most of her senior year. In fact, she plans to make the most of life. After school, she would like to become an elementary school teacher
“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,’” Sarah’s mom explained. “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.”
A recent post on the Instagram account is written by Sarah herself. She explains that she was nervous to come home and try to adjust to this new life, but it’s going well. Her friends are keeping her company and she’s busy with physical and occupational therapy to work on her arm strength and moving around the house.
“I went downstairs for the first time!! (only to watch the season premiere of This Is Us;))” she wrote. “It feels really good to kind of get back to normal and find a good system for me to still do the things i want to do.”
She thanks her parents for helping her improve every day, and she thanks all of the encouragement she had received from her followers. “I appreciate all the love and support we’re getting from so many people throughout the world! Thank you to everyone that has prayed for us and helped us, I love you all!!!” 
- “Utah cheerleader receives emotional homecoming after having both legs amputated”. Alyssa Newcomb. Today. November 2, 2020
- “Cheerleader gets welcome home parade, returns to field after double leg amputation.” Katie Kindelan. ABC News. October 29, 2020
- Strong Like Sarah. Instagram.
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