OREM The healing process continues for family and friends of 14-year-old Tori Schmanski, who used to spend hours dancing but is now confined to a hospital bed after a June 19 car accident.
Almost a month ago, Tori was trapped for 15 minutes in a car that flipped upside down into a pond. She was first taken to Delta Community Hospital, then flown to Primary Children's Medical Center, where she has been in the Intensive Care Unit making slow progress toward recovery despite early pessimism about her chances for survival.
"One of the big lessons we've learned is never give up," said her father Tim Schmanski. "When we got here, (Tori) wasn't supposed to live through the night. We were talking organ donation. The next day, she somewhat improved. Each day brings a new test and she's just beating them."
The accident was a shock, not only for the Schmanski family but for Tori's extended family her fellow dancers.
Tori is a member of The Dance Club, an Orem dance company with 30 young members who dedicate as many as 20 hours each week to learning, practicing and performing routines.
All year, the girls had been practicing for the New York City Dance Alliance, an annual national competition. The group had 52 numbers prepared, including solo dances, duos, and large group numbers, said Sheryl Dowling, owner of The Dance Club.
When Tori ended up in the hospital, just weeks before the event, it was a blow to everyone.
"At first, everyone was stunned," Dowling said. "How can we rehearse when it just doesn't matter all of a sudden?"
But after several visits to their friend in the hospital and talking with therapists, the group decided to go ahead with their trip. The company returned Tuesday night from the 10-day competition that had gained new meaning.
"Everything we did there it was all about her," Dowling said. The company scouted out famous performers in the dancing world to get their autographs for Tori, and they hung posters plastered with well-wishes for their friend in their dressing room.
But with Tori missing from the routines, the experience was bittersweet.
"It was so hard," said 15-year-old Mckenzie Lambright, who has known Tori for three years and described her as the hardest worker in the company. "We had to re-space our dances to make them look good, then it was hard because she was the one that was the most excited about it. Every time before we went on, we'd say a prayer for Tori, to have her with us."
The prayers have been a big part of Tori's recovery process, her dad says. She can already recognize individual people, smile, grip with her hand and has even attempted to laugh.
"It's been a spiritual thing for me," Tim Schmanski said. "I would dare say I was not the most religious person coming in, but now spiritually, I think there's definitely a power to prayer and faith, just from what I've seen."
Beyond the spiritual lessons, Tori's friends say they've been reminded about the importance of relationships.
"We visit her at least once a week," Lambright said. "We just hang out with our friends more and are nicer to each other."
Although Tori will remain hospitalized for a while undergoing aggressive therapy, the family hopes to move her to a hospital closer to their Orem home. And as she continues to heal, her fellow dancers will continue to show their support through banners, bracelets and car windows painted with the phrase, "Pray 4 Tori.""We'll try and make it normal, as much as we can," said fellow dancer, 15-year-old Kara Hill from Orem. "We'll always remember her."
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