After 19-year-old Lee woman hit by car, family and community rally for her recovery

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LEE — This time last week, Khali Zabian was winding up her summer job in Great Barrington and getting ready to go back to college.

Then came the accident that caused injuries so severe that she required an eight-hour brain operation. She remained in a coma Monday at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

"It is a miracle," Ali Zabian said of his daughter's survival. "But she's far from out of the woods."

Khali Zabian, 19, was struck by an oncoming car about 10 p.m. Wednesday while standing in the northbound lane of Route 7 near Fountain Pond after she had hit some guardrails, police said.

Her prognosis is still unfolding; tests show that bleeding has led to damage to the right side of her brain, and a little bit on the left side.

"This translates to — not 100 percent — but a good chance she might lose the use of her left arm and leg and a little bit of speech," he said.

Zabian said that doctors will gradually begin to wake her up, a process that could take another week to 10 days.

"The next stage is rehab," he said.

She has been studying aerospace physiology at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and wants to be a physician's aide, he said. "She loves biology. She's just a great kid."

In an interview with The Eagle, Zabian filled in some details about how Wednesday's incident unfolded, based on accounts he's heard from others at the scene.

The Lee High School grad had just gotten off work at Naji's restaurant in Great Barrington when it happened.

"She lost control of the car, and it was just one thing after another," he said.

After striking the guardrails, Khali called 911, and another motorist who had stopped to help her was standing in the lane, directing northbound traffic around her disabled car with his flashlight, he said. The man told her father that she was standing behind him as drivers slowed down to go around them — except one.

"The kids came barreling up the hill and not slowing down," he said. "When they saw what was going on they veered — veered into Khali."

The driver, a 17-year-old, did not realize he had struck someone, the man told Khali's father.

Police suspected the driver was high on marijuana. After administering a field sobriety test, police charged the teen with driving under the influence. Alcohol was not a factor, police said.

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His name is not being released due to his age. Another teen was in the passenger seat at the time.

"He obviously has some things he needs to work out in his life," Ali Zabian said of the driver. He noted the accident is devastating to everyone involved.

After the crash, Khali was transported to Berkshire Medical Center, where she underwent emergency surgery. Her father said it was also a miracle that both the head of the neurology and anesthesiology departments were on call that night.

Support and faith

She was flown to Baystate the following day, and now family and friends are right there beside her, or helping in other ways, her father said. Her boyfriend — who her father says is her first — will take the semester off to stay here. Her older sister plans to take a year off from college. He said he and his wife, Lisa Zabian, will make sure that the two continue to take classes here.

He said his wife is at the hospital around the clock, and that "it's taking a toll."

"She's a strong woman," he said of his wife. "But you don't eat that well, sleep that well; you don't take care of yourself and you get a little ragged."

The couple also have a clothing and jewelry store in Lee to run.

"I've got brides and wedding parties," he said. "As much as I'd like not to be here."

But Ali Zabian said his daughter and family are buoyed by their spiritual life and a prayer chain that has circled the globe.

"We have a strong faith," Zabian said. "I don't know how people go through these things without God in their life. The bright light in this whole story is that we've got people from all different denominations — we have people all over the world praying for her."

The family are members of the Open Door Church in Lee, and from there has sprung a prayer circle where its members pray at 9 p.m. "no matter what you are doing." The group is now also praying for another young man at Baystate who has a head injury from a motorcycle accident.

"We met his family in the waiting room," he said.

Zabian wants everyone to continue with prayer, for his daughter, and for a community that has seen much tragedy in recent weeks.

"I don't want anybody to give up praying for her — she's going to need it," he said. "This is a long road she's on."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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