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Cheerleader gets welcome home parade, returns to field after double leg amputation

Although faced with the hardest battle of her young life, this teenage girl from Syracuse, Utah, never once let her spirit dwindle even after a double leg amputation.

Sarah Frei, 17, and her friends were on their way home from Bear Lake in July when the unthinkable happened. A truck coming from the opposite direction came drifting around the corner and hit their vehicle head-on. Investigators later learned that the driver was drunk.

Sarah’s three other friends were all badly injured, but she was the one who suffered the worst. She had internal bleeding, damage to her abdominal aorta, a broken back and spinal cord, a broken ankle, and facial fractures. Both of her legs had to be amputated at mid-thigh.

After the double leg amputation, 20 surgeries and 75 days in the hospital, Sarah finally came home on October 14.

Someone as brave as her deserved a homecoming like no other, so her doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and the University of Utah cheerleading squad came together to surprise her as she wheeled out of the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital in Salt Lake City.

They lined the hospital’s exit to bid her goodbye, and once she was out of the hospital, her friends, family, and high school classmates welcomed her home with a police-escorted parade.

“I didn’t realize how big it could be,” Sarah told “Good Morning America.” “Once we’d pass [people], they’d join in behind, holding signs.”

And a day after coming home, Sarah—a cheerleader and a high school senior—joined her teammates on the field for the last home football game of the season.

Everyone around Sarah can’t help but be amazed by her sheer determination and optimism after the double leg amputation. What happened to her is heartbreaking and tragic, yet she was able to maintain a positive outlook on life.

Her mom, Amy Frei, feels proud of her daughter for being so brave and strong.

“It was just beautiful,” she said. “She has stayed positive and held us through it and, almost in a way, made it easier on us.”

Even the medical staff who took care of Sarah can attest to her incredible spirit and courage.

“She made our job very easy because she wanted to work very hard every day,” said Dr. Venessa Lee, the spinal cord injury attending who worked with Sarah at Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital. “We would try to give her permission to complain or to say it’s OK to have a bad day or be grumpy, and she never complained.”

Sarah’s injury is a T11 spinal cord injury, which means she’ll probably need to use a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Even with that kind of life-changing news, Sarah didn’t surrender. Instead, she would focus on solutions, asking them what’s next and what they can do about it.

The support of her friends also helped Sarah throughout her recovery. They made sure she never missed anything and found a way to include her in the homecoming dance.

That day, Sarah got all dolled up with the help of her nurses and physical therapists. Andrew, her homecoming date, and two of her close friends came to the hospital to “pick her up.” They also brought her dinner from the event and took some pictures together. Since Sarah couldn’t leave the facility, her friends took her to the actual party by FaceTiming with her during the dance.

With her unmatched resilience after a double leg amputation, Sarah was able to inspire not only her family and friends but also tens of thousands of people worldwide who follow her story on Facebook and Instagram.

Her family has also set up a GoFundMe page to help support her medical expenses and the cost of renovating their home to be fully wheelchair-accessible.

Sarah plans to finish her schoolwork while in rehab and graduate on time with her senior class this year. She dreams of becoming a teacher someday.

“Everyone who has helped us has been so supportive, which shows that we just have all this love that we shouldn’t take for granted and that people are always there for us, there for me,” Sarah said. “I think it’s good for other people to know that they’re not alone, and that’s something that I’ve learned.”

Sarah’s strength and courage are truly phenomenal, and her story only proves that a positive mindset and attitude really have the power to change our lives!

Share this story with your friends and family if you were inspired by Sarah’s journey.

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