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Davis Journal

Grit and determination helped Sarah Frei pull through after devastating car accident

Jul 14, 2022 01:11PM ● By Becky Ginos

FARMINGTON—In the summer of 2020, Sarah Frei and her best friends were coming home through Logan Canyon after a fun day at Bear Lake when a drunk driver came around the bend at 70 mph and hit their car head on – changing their lives forever. Frei shared her story recently at a conference for teachers in the Davis School District.

“I was in the back passenger seat,” said Frei. “I was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. The windshield nearly touched my friends’ faces. We were trapped.”

Her friend who was driving broke his femur and her other friend had abdominal and back wounds but managed to get out of the car to see what she could do to help, Frei said. “There were amazing people around us, a former EMT, a CNA, someone from special forces and a pharmacist. It took an hour for the ambulance to get to us then they took us to the hospital in Logan.”

 Frei said she had 60 blood transfusions and was life-flighted to Salt Lake where both of her legs were amputated. “I spent five weeks in the ICU. My parents switched off every other day. They helped me the whole time.”

Before the accident, Frei was a cheerleader at Clearfield High and was also on the golf team. She loved swimming and tumbling and just being outside. “In the hospital I worked on getting stronger,” she said. “I couldn’t do my hair. I couldn’t sit up in bed, I couldn’t roll over. I had to learn almost everything. After my hospital stay I finally got to see my friends.”

A year later, Frei said her family planned a trip to Disney World. “It was the first time I’d flown on a plane since the accident. We went to the Magic Kingdom and the Epcot Center and I did all of the fun rides. I was able to ride everything I wanted to. It was an awesome experience.”

However, when they got to Universal Studios it was a completely different experience, she said. “I was super excited to ride the first ride. I got into the test seat and the worker said ‘your legs have to come right to the edge of the seat.’ I was kind of in shock. I got back into my chair to go to the next ride. My dad lifted me in and scooted me forward. Then they said ‘you have to have knees to ride this ride.’ I went to the next ride and they said ‘you have to have one real leg to ride the ride.’”

All the regulations were different, said Frei. “I was so discouraged that I couldn’t ride the rides. I came home and I started thinking about what I could do. I wanted to do something crazy. I decided to try skydiving.”

 It was totally fine to jump out of a plane, she said. “When I got there they strapped me to another diver. It was the funnest thing I’ve ever done. I could still feel that thrill in my life. It made me just as happy. Changes happen, they shouldn’t hold us back from doing the things we love. You can be happy if you stay determined, even if it’s a completely different way than you thought.”

Frei graduated from high school in 2021. “I wanted to go to college by myself and be independent,” she said. “I was worried, what if I fall out of my wheelchair and there’s no one to help me get back in? So my dad helped me practice getting off the floor and into my chair. I could never get it. Most people were just amputees but not paralyzed. They hadn’t met my situation.”

 Nothing seemed to be working for her to meet that goal before going to college. “I said to myself, ‘I’m getting from the floor to the chair tonight,’” said Frei. “I did it. Now I can get into my chair by myself. It’s something no one else can do. I was so happy and proud. Now I can go to college.”

Everyone has different gifts, she said. “Sometimes things seem to work for others and not for you. We have to find what works for us. Use those gifts to your advantage. I made a list of things I wanted to be able to do when I left the hospital. It used to be easy and now it’s different. I’m happy with the things I can do. It’s those small goals that led me to where I am.”

Frei said people ask her how she can be so positive. “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.”

 It’s all because of acceptance, she said. “You have to accept it and move on. It was an unexpected change that I didn’t want and didn’t ask for. I’m able to do cheer, golf and swim because I have accepted it and moved on from those challenges.” λ