Shoes Tell The Story Of Elon Runner's Long Road To Recovery

Elon Student Recovery

FROSTBURG, M.D. --  The high school valedictorian, an honors student at Elon, a champion runner.  Molly Offstein had so much ahead of her - until one day, she didn't.

"Worst day ever," says Evan Offstein, Molly's father.

On March 6, 2017, Molly was out for a run, something she'd done hundreds of times before.  She was trying to cross the University Drive and O'Kelly Avenue intersection in Elon, right down the road from campus, when a car smashed into her.  It was a single instant that erased almost 2 decades worth of living.

Since the accident, Molly has been in and out of four different hospitals.  She was first taken by helicopter to UNC.  Her parents credit the first responders with saving her life.

"She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury as well as pelvic fractures and other life-threatening injuries that UNC at Chapel Hill did an amazing job stabilizing and helping her get through," explains Laura Byrnes, Molly's mother. 

In the weeks following the accident, Molly was in a coma.  Some doctors thought that's where she'd be the rest of her life.

"She has shown some grit and resolve that I think very few have," explains Evan.  "She has tried to pull herself out of the abyss where I think a lot of people, myself included, I think I would have mailed it in."

Right now, 11 months after the accident, Molly is home with her family in Frostburg, Maryland.  The basement of her mother's house has turned into a rehabilitation area.  She has to relearn all of the basics.  She can't walk on her own.  She takes her meals through a feeding tube and she needs help using the bathroom. She's also suffering from memory loss and she's in therapy for mobility and speech.  Her parents don't think she knows what happened to her or what's not happening for her.

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"It's tough," says Evan. "Not only did she have dreams, but I had dreams for Molly.  At the very best, those dreams are on hold."

Molly's family and other caretakers work with her daily to work on her movement and cognition.

"I’ll play bingo with her, or tic-tac-toe and it's fun in some ways but it makes me sad in others because this is a 20-year-old honors student at Elon that I’m playing tic-tac-toe with," says her father.

While her family tries to balance the love with the heartbreak and the strides with the unknown, Molly's working to balance on her own two feet.

"You can’t make it go away, so you move forward with the strength in knowing that your child is here and that you want her to recover and live as fulfilling a life as she can," says her mother.

The truth is, it’s not clear what Molly’s future might be.  But what is clear is the love she gets from her family, her friends, and her communities from Frostburg to Elon.

If you drive through Frostburg, you see shoes hanging up everywhere.  It's a sure sign people are on her team; they want her to win.  There are 104 pairs alone outside her family's church.

"She was loved," says her father.  "She is loved.'

Some people are even lacing up their shoes on Molly's behalf, logging some miles, while Molly can't.

"She's inspiring others," Laura explains. "You've got to be proud of that."

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