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Zaida Morales

On January 29, 2016, Zaida Morales and a couple of friends stopped at a neighborhood food truck. As they waited, a drunk driver slammed into her, trapping her between his truck and a car.

Zaida’s legs were terribly broken, one was caught in a fence. A stranger ran to her, cradled her like a baby and told her over and over, “It will be OK,” – prophetic words.

Her memories of the trauma center at Ben Taub Hospital are of white corridors, clothes being cut away and worse, a doctor saying her left leg would probably require amputation. She says, “Swimming and dancing, the things I love, went through my head.”

Zaida and her parents are grateful for caring and diligent doctors. Though there was less than a 5 percent chance of saving her leg, they were determined to try. In a 13-hour surgery that included both legs, doctors reconnected arteries, set broken bones and reconstructed both knees. She was sedated for 24 hours. When she woke, she saw metal external fixators on both legs. She credits orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Perkins with much of her success.

In all, she had 14 surgeries to repair damaged tissue, nerves and muscles. She had a bone graft and a muscle transplant with muscles taken from her back. She was in Ben Taub for two months.

“It’s the best place to be,” she says. “Everyone treated me special. They motivated me.”

When Zaida left the hospital in March, she was in a wheelchair and still wore the external fixators. She was told that with determination and lots of hard work, she probably could walk in two years.  She did it in seven months!

“It was hard, but with the help of God, my family and friends, I got through it.”

Though she missed a semester of her junior year at Spring Woods High School, Zaida has worked hard and expects to graduate with her class. In January, she participated in her first swim competition since the incident. She dropped four seconds from her previous best time, but even better, “It was just me and the water. It felt awesome!”

Zaida wants to be a stewardess to see the world, a physical therapist to fix broken bodies and a psychologist to fix broken people. There’s no doubt she can accomplish all of them!