Dancing again

Credit: the Hafez family

After a terrible car accident, hope, and skilled surgeons, get one teen back on stage

While she lay in a hospital bed with her injuries after a car accident, all Rima, 14, could think about was dancing again, practicing her moves over and over in her head.

Thanks to the leading-edge care she received at E.W. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, part of University of Michigan Health, Rima recently returned to the stage, in a dance appropriately called “Hope.”

“My dance teacher named the dance “Hope” for multiple reasons,” Rima said. “In relation to my accident, it tells the story of how me, my friends and my family had so much hope throughout my stay in the hospital as well as my recovery.

“[ Sparrow health care providers]  encouraged me and taught me how to best take care of myself and I am incredibly grateful for that.

They were always telling me kind words, having casual conversations with me, and making me laugh and smile during a hard time.”

Rima’s father, Mohamed Hafez, credits the highly skilled team of surgeons, physicians, and therapists at Sparrow for saving her life and for giving him a new appreciation for his daughter and dance.

“I used to always complain about going to dance competitions. But after the accident, honestly, I don’t miss a single one and I enjoy being there and I appreciate my daughter more,” he said.

A terrible car crash

The accident, which also involved her brother, occurred in the Lansing area on April 13, 2022.

Rima was brought to the Emergency Department at E.W. Sparrow, Mid-Michigan’s only Level 1 Trauma Center, with a broken neck, fractured jaw, punctured heart, punctured lung, broken nose and femur.

Rima was happy to be alive. However, in the initial days and weeks following the crash, her family says they were told that while she would heal, it was unclear if the competitive dancer would ever walk normally or dance again.


Although Rima says she isn’t 100% injury free, she’s thankful to be dancing again.

Orthopedic surgeon Michael McDermott, M.D., was just one of many highly skilled caregivers who treated Rima, repairing her broken femur.

McDermott says in many cases a crash like this would diminish the spirits of patients. However, with a strong support system and a great attitude, that hasn’t been the case for Rima.

In fact, McDermott says the teen’s positive attitude is a key factor in her recovery.

Starting again

Throughout her journey, Rima says dancing again was all she could think about.

“My passion for dance is really strong, I would just dance in my head, and I would do as much as I could to practice,” she said.

“I knew I was going to go back. There was never any bad thought in the back of my head. I wasn’t scared that I wouldn’t be able to go back.”

Rima underwent several surgeries and spent months undergoing treatments with physical therapists who helped her regain the strength in her neck and legs.

“A few months into my recovery, I started getting sick of not being able to dance. I just wanted to get up and do it. I would work out with two-pound weights every day,” said Rima.

While Rima’s physical wounds heal, the memory of the terrifying night of the accident still haunt her father.

“I get goosebumps every time I think about it, every time I remember it. It wasn’t a good thing to be at the scene of an accident for your daughter, and it [has] affected my life to this day, to be honest with you,” he said.

After a grueling year of rehab, Rima recently returned to the stage and is now preparing for her next competition. While she’s still recovering from her injuries, her drive for excellence hasn’t diminished.

“I get really upset sometimes if I can’t do certain turns and leaps because of some of my injuries.”

Despite the frustrations, Rima is thankful to have the opportunity to dance again and for the team at Sparrow for saving her life.

To learn more about leading-edge care at Sparrow, part of University of Michigan Health, visit Sparrow.org.

Written by Corey Alexander.

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