CREATED Jun 8, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - She was run over and left on the side of the road “like a dead animal.” The 17-year-old hit-and-run victim was left with fractured bones and a broken spirit. It happened near Craycroft and I-10 in December. Six months later, 9 On Your Side found Heather Elliott’s spirit healed and other aspects of her life still in recovery.
The hit-and-run put Heather in the hospital with a fractured spine.
"It feels like somebody's sticking a hot needle--a few hot needles, actually--sticking them in a place in your back,” the Pima County resident told 9 On Your Side reporter Kevin Keen in December.
Doctors implanted pins and rods. When the 17 year old got to go home, she had to wear a brace.
Now, six months later, Heather is walking without the brace. But life has never been the same.
“It's different,” she told Keen Friday. He asked her, “Better, worse, the same?” “Certainly for the better,” Heather answered.
Better for an unexpected reason.
“How did getting hit by a car help you get closer to your mom?” Keen asked. “I guess the scary thought that I almost died, after dying twice. I could've been gone forever,” she replied, referring to the fact that doctors told her family she technically died twice that day. “It showed us that there's a lot that you need to cherish while you still have it.”
The near-constant pain in her back has not gone away, but something else appeared: memories from that dark December morning.
“I remember a lot more than I did,” she said. “Laying there on the cold street, I remember the rain pouring down and I was so cold.”
But the memories don't haunt her, at least not every day.
“I've actually, I can say, I've moved on,” she said.
Heather's family feels differently.
“From the moment I walked into the trauma center and saw her laying on that gurney, screaming, that's when that made an impression on me for forever,” said her mother, Mitizi Perfetto.
Keen asked Mitizi, “Is there something that could happen that would make that feeling go away?” “Hopefully, just time,” she replied.
Mitizi added Heather’s hospital bills helped push the family’s insurance near its annual $1 million limit. They may have to pay future expenses out of pocket.
Heather still thinks about the driver who left her.
In December she said, “I want to be so blunt. I hope they grow a pair and come say something.”
“Do you still feel that way?” Keen asked her. “I still feel that way,” Heather answered. “I guess I do wish I knew who hit me and just left me there. It's just not something that I can completely let go of.”
The Pima County Sheriff's Office reported Heather’s case remains unsolved. Investigators have followed up with every tip without success. If you have information to share, call 88-CRIME or 9-1-1.