SEATTLE – Laura Hatch (search) remembers only praying and trying to break free from her car after it crashed down a ravine, leaving her severely injured and trapped for eight days.
Since returning home, she's been spending most of her time sleeping, talking with her twin sister and — like any teen concerned about her appearance — avoiding all but her closest friends.
The 17-year-old, who recently underwent complex reconstructive surgery, was expected to make a full recovery within months, her doctors said at a news conference Monday. She, however, did not speak publicly.
"She's done beautifully. She's going to lead a normal life," said Dr. Richard Ellenbogen (search), a neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital (search) in Seattle. "She's as beautiful inside as she's going to be outside."
For eight days, no one knew where the teenager was following the Oct. 2 accident. She crashed her car 200 feet down a ravine after leaving a party in the east Seattle suburb of Redmond, where her family lives.
Relatives searched repeatedly. Sheriff's deputies figured her for a runaway. Finally, a family friend, who said she was guided by vivid dreams, drove with her own daughter to the crash area and spotted the car.
Hatch was dehydrated, and her right eye socket, cheekbone and nose were crushed.
Laura's father, Todd Hatch, said that she has no recollection of the accident or how it happened. He said she may have been drinking — there was underage drinking at the party — but "she seems incapable of telling me."
When she was rescued, she believed it was still the same day as the accident, he said. All she recalls of her first 10 days in a hospital is an IV being removed from her arm.
She also had a blood clot in her skull that meant Ellenbogen and Dr. Joseph Gruss (search), chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Children's, could not operate until a month after the accident. Ideally, such operations are conducted within about a week.
Hatch's bones had already begun to heal by the time of the operation, so after peeling away her muscle and skin, Gruss re-created the fractures using chisels and saws. Tiny titanium screws were used to set the bones.
The doctors also dealt with the blood clot and used bone from the outer layer of her skull to re-create her face.
Once the bones heal, doctors say, Hatch will be able to do everything she's done before, including playing soccer.