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Sandy family helps 18-year-old daughter recover from 50-foot fall in Little Cottonwood Canyon


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SALT LAKE CITY — Abby Ward can't speak and struggles to roll over, sit, and pedal a bike around the hospital. On July 6th, her world shattered. She was on a ventilator and struggling to survive.

"Initially I thought, 'Oh she fell, she fell, shoot.' But I didn't realize how severe of an injury it was," said Janie Ward, Abby's mother, who lives in Sandy.

It was a dramatic helicopter rescue in Little Cottonwood Canyon as crews worked to save 18-year-old Abby. She fell 50 feet and laid flat on the rocks in the water. She suffered severe brain damage and has a long road to recovery.

Abby suffered a traumatic brain injury. She had been hiking with her 15-year-old brother, Jake, at Lisa Falls.

"We were going across a kind of tricky section and she just slipped and fell," said Jake Ward.

He called for help, climbed down to Abby and pulled her head out of the water. He's a hero who said anyone would have done it.

Jake stayed with Abby for one and a half hours until rescuers arrived. Today, her family is by her side as she struggles for every little movement during therapy at Primary Children's Hospital.

Abby's father, Daniel Ward, is cheering her on.

"She was a Sterling Scholar in science," he said. "She was studying chemistry. She was getting ready to go on a mission, actually a couple of weeks ago she was getting ready to go to Sweden."

It's a fate this close-knit family never expected.

"At any instance, any of us could have something terrible happen to us but it's kind of like: It's never you, right? Until it happens to you," Daniel Ward said.

Now, the family celebrates every small step forward — major victories, even something as simple as a fist bump with her dad.

"There are improvements every single day," Janie Ward said. "There's something to be happy and excited about every single day."

Doctors expect Abby will remain in the hospital for at least five more weeks and then she'll have a lot of outpatient physical therapy.


Heather Simonsen


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