Zion Carlstrom returns home

Middlebury's Zion Carlstrom is recovering from being hit on her bike three months ago.

Posted on Oct. 20, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

MIDDLEBURY — Months after being hit by a car while riding her bike, Zion Carlstrom has returned home. Her injuries include four broken bones in her left leg, scar tissue in her throat causing breathing problems, short-term memory loss and balance issues.

But she’s home.

Zion, 17, spent almost three months at Hook Rehabilitation Center in Indianapolis after four weeks at South Bend’s Memorial Hospital. She was riding her bike on July 10 with her younger brother, Hezekiah, when a car hit her and drove off. The driver, Pasquale Rulli, later turned himself in to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. Rulli was charged with failure to return to the scene of an accident that resulted in a serious bodily injury, a Class D felony.

Some friends are putting on a concert for Zion and her family from 5 to 7 p.m. today, Oct. 20, at the Boys and Girls Club of Middlebury, 56805 Northridge Drive.

Zion, who returned home Oct. 5, has been adjusting back to life in Middlebury. The head injury she suffered during the accident left her with short-term memory loss.

Her doctors say she can take one class at school in November, but her family is not sure which class that will be. She was supposed to be a senior this year.

“It’s going to take some time to come back,” said her father, Blair Carlstrom.

Zion will have six hours of therapy, including speech, occupational and physical. A friend gave her an iPad that she uses to play memory games and build her response time.

She said she doesn’t remember the accident or the days after.

“I focus mainly on the recovery,” she said.

She uses a walker and has trouble breathing sometimes due to scar tissue in her throat. She can’t walk for long periods of time since she loses her breath quickly. Her trachea is scarred from all the tubing she had. Her left leg had four broken bones, and she will find out soon how much of it has healed and how much weight she can put on.

The brain injury also caused some balance issues. She had an evaluation last week for her therapy, and her insurance is still figuring out which part of her rehabilitation it will pay for.

A hand-made sign saying “Welcome Home” hangs inside the Carlstroms’ house. Strangers know her name and greet her at the grocery store, and she has a bag full of cards that people have sent.

“People really like to talk to you,” Zion said.

She was a manager for the volleyball team and hopes to return to the sport after she recovers. She also loved riding her bike and walking around her neighborhood and used to work at the McDonald’s in Middlebury.

She says she will miss this school year, but “I’ve kind of accepted it,” she said of her accident and subsequent injuries.

Her mom, Tracy Carlstrom, said her fiery attitude is helpful when it comes to getting through rehab. While Zion was in the hospital, friends and neighbors brought meals, did their laundry and mowed their lawn. People put up jars of money at local businesses to help with their medical expenses.

“Even people we didn’t know asked how they could help,” Tracy Carlstrom said.

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