Independence teen grateful to return home from rehab following crash that changed her life

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A William Chrisman student is back home after spending two months in rehabilitation following a bad car accident. Shelley Cunningham was hit after leaving school on a Friday afternoon in February near 24 Highway and Parker Avenue. Police said a man who was driving a stolen truck hit the teen and then ran from the scene.

"I would start crying to them and ask them where I was," Cunningham said, describing the weeks after the accident when she would wake up in a hospital room.

Cunningham said she doesn't remember being in a wreck or the weeks that followed it.

"I don't think I will ever be the normal Shelley I was," she said.

The teen has been recovering from a brain injury, a torn ACL, broken ribs, broken hips and more.

Cunningham has spent the past two months at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Nebraska and said she is happy to finally be back home. The former dancer and cheerleader said it has been a difficult lifestyle change.

"I guess I will always walk with a limp," she said. "It's kind of hard to swallow."

Heather Cunningham, Shelley's mom, said when she saw her daughter in the hospital she wasn't prepared to see how bad her condition was.

"Even though you work in the medical field, when it's your own child, it doesn't really... it's different," she said.

Cunningham continues therapy five times a week and is still learning how to walk and talk again. She will return to William Chrisman High School as a senior this Fall and hopes to become a nurse one day.

"Just seeing all the nurses help me at Madonna kind of gave me more insight to what it's like being on the other side," she said.

Heather Cunningham said the family credits their friends, family and church for getting them through this difficult time.

Ethan Watts, 24, is facing multiple charges in the case. Police said a week before the accident he tried to steal a man's car and threatened him with a gun.

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