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Arrowhead Parkway crash survivor shares story and recovery update

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 4:05 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Positivity, courage, and forgiveness. That is the mindset you will sense when you talk to Gia Elumbaring.

Last year, Gia was on a volleyball team, Colorguard, and having fun with her friends, as any teenager should.

After her shift at Buffalo Wild Wings on the east side of town on May 8th, she accepted a ride home from a co-worker and got in the back seat. The group of four only made it a few blocks away when another driver, going over 100 miles per hour, crashed into the vehicle.

Gia instantly lost two of her co-workers in the front seat. Her next memory is waking up in a strange place.

“I was like, ‘what is this like where am I’, and then a lot of like nurses came to me and stuff like that,” said Elumbaring. “And when I was in the hospital I was in so much pain.”

Her hospital stay was six and a half weeks.

“I can’t move anything, and I’m like, I’m full of like those pain medications I just didn’t know I was having it was very confusing to me,” said Elumbaring.

She was fighting for her own life with numerous injuries.

“Head to toe, literally. So, I had a gash on the left side of my head, and they stapled it together. I’m just glad that they didn’t shave my hair off because I was so scared for that,” said Elumbaring.

She’s chosen to view her scars as marks of healing, rather than a point of injury.

“This saved my foot from being amputated and I like, I love how I still have it. I’m very thankful I still have it,” said Elumbaring.

Despite the trauma, pins, screws, cages, and rods holding her together, she has chosen to forgive.

“There’s a lot of tension going on and a lot of problems are going through their lives and stuff, and someone to worry about him, or someone to blame them, might just like take them down a little bit,” said Elumbaring.

Gia hoped to walk by graduation next spring, but that came even quicker than expected.

“I just, I wanted to walk so, so much that I will like to keep practicing every day it doesn’t matter if it’s like hard for me,” said Elumbaring.

Now she can go for short walks with her parents.

“I know I must have been really hard for them, seeing their daughter like that but she could, she could, almost have died,” said Elumbaring.

Her life is a miracle and a gift. She remembers looking at her calendar and realizing she was unconscious for Mother’s day.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Mom’, I started crying and I was like, ‘I can’t believe this happened on the day before Mother’s Day.’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t get your gift, I’ll get you a gift when I get out of the hospital’,” said Elumbaring. “And she’s like ‘no no it’s okay like you being alive is a gift to me.’”

Gia knows everyone has a story to share, as she’s coming through one of her biggest challenges yet, she wants to encourage others to face their own difficulties.

“Positivity really helps you a lot. Throughout my time, I was very insecure about something I was very frustrated that I can do something. And I cried like it’s okay to cry about it like crying is healing for me,” said Elumbaring. And after that crying, you can just tell yourself to cheer yourself up and be like, hey, like, this is not over yet like you have time.”

For all of the prayers, gifts, and care she’s received, saying thank you just doesn’t seem enough.

It’s amazing how a lot of people can be so caring about someone that they barely know.

Gia still faces more surgeries in the future. Wednesday was a celebration though as she was able to walk into Brandon Valley high school for the first day of school.

Buffalo Wild Wings at Dawley Farms will be hosting a fundraiser from Friday, August 27th through Sunday, August 29th. The LaHaise Family, who owns the franchise, will donate 25¢ for every boneless wing sold to Gia’s medical expenses fund.

On Sunday, August 29th there will be Games at 11 am. Big Country Radio will be broadcasting on-site during the day and live music by the band Eclipse from 4 pm to 7 pm.

Gia along with her parents John and Chona Wooldridge provided this statement to thank everyone for their support:

“Our family would also like to thank the following from St Lamberts parish Fr. Shaun Haggerty and all the parishioners as well as Camille from Central church and all of the parishioners from there along with all the countless people from around the world who donated and prayed for her speeding recovery and especially thanking God for saving her life. We also want to thank the Avera medical team especially the doctors and nurses who took great care of her. You can also include special thanks to The Drop Nutrition, Buffalo Wild Wings, Brandon Valley High School, and the community.”

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