Middlebury teen talks about recovery after hit-and-run accident

MIDDLEBURY, Ind. --- Zion Carlstrom, 17, is speaking exclusively to ABC 57 since returning home from the hospital this month. In July, a driver struck Carlstrom while she was riding her bike and then drove off. 

Last week, the Elkhart County Prosecutor's office charged Pasquale Rulli, 26, with failure to return to the scene of an accident that resulted in a serious bodily injury, a class D felony. The charge comes months after Rulli first turned himself into the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department.

Saturday friends and family officially celebrated Carlstrom's homecoming after she spent nearly three months in the hospital recovering from a severe brain injury and an injured leg that was broken in three places.

Carlstrom has undergone many surgeries and has more to go as she learns to walk again and struggles to breathe because of scar tissue that has built up in her throat.  

In her very first TV interview since coming home from the hospital, Carlstrom opened up about the accident, her long recovery and how she found forgiveness for the man who drove off.

Zion Carlstrom is all smiles since coming home from the hospital just 14 days ago.

"She has most of her long-term memory intact and we are still working on her short-term memory," Zion's mother Tracy Carlstrom said Friday.

"My memory is not very strong, but I am working on it as much as I can," said Zion.

Three months ago, Zion was like any other teenage girl -- full of life, loved school and had hopes of being a nurse.

Then, her dreams and aspirations were almost ripped away from her one hot summer in night in July. Zion was riding her bike on C.R. 35 when police said Rulli admitted to hitting her with his car and then driving off.

"I just assumed everything was going to be OK. We got there and our friend looked at us and said this is not good. That's when everything changed for me," said Zion's father Blair Carlstrom.

However, the Carlstrom family was soon learn it was not OK. Their daughter was air lifted to the hospital, clinging to life.

"I think my worst fear was that she would wake up and not know us," said Tracy.

Zion said she does not remember that day at all. Instead, only her fight to survive the coming days after her accident.

"I think that God saved me because he has something greater planned for me. So, I just give everything to a whatever I am doing."

As Zion continues her recovery, she said she is not mad at the man that did this. She and her family said they forgive him and understand it was only an accident.

"I don’t think he meant to do it. I don't see how he could have, so I feel bad that he has had to go through all this just like I have," said Zion.

Although the healing has begun, the wounds are still there for Zion and her family. They said that hearing that a young college student lost her life after being struck while riding her bike last week, was heartwrenching.

"It was a flashback to those moments where that could have easily been us," said her father.

It is tragic stories like this one that make Zion realize just how lucky she was.

"Yes, very lucky."

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