UTAH COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – When tragedy strikes it’s easy to let the odds get the best of us and not put up a fight. But for 16-year-old Emily Traveller that is not the case. Her resilience and positive mindset has her fighting to move her body again after being told it was likely she wouldn’t be able to following a trip to the sand dunes where she took a tumble for the worse.

Courtesy of the Traveller family

On April 22 Emily’s parents Kari and Jon Traveller received a call that their daughter had been involved in an ATV accident while out with some friends at Little Sahara. According to Father Jon Traveller, there weren’t a lot of details at first except that there was an accident and paramedics had been called. Emily had been with three other friends at a campfire as they were riding in a side-by-side all-terrain vehicle. At some point the ATV rolled, and Emily was pinned under it for nearly an hour.

Courtesy of the Traveller family
Courtesy of the Traveller family

Jon and Kari began making the trek from their home in Utah County to Little Sahara to get to their daughter. “We thought maybe it was just scrapes, bruises or broken bones but we didn’t know how severe her injuries were,” Jon Traveller told ABC4’s Curtis Booker via a zoom interview.

Courtesy of the Traveller family

During the drive, Jon and Kari Traveller said they were getting updates from first responders about Emily’s condition. When they were about 20 minutes away from the sand dunes, they were told Emily had been life-flighted from Little Sahara to Utah Valley Hospital in Provo–that’s when they had a feeling her injuries were serious. Upon arrival at the hospital, Jon Traveller said dozens of nurses and doctors were waiting to begin operating on Emily. When parents Jon and Kari finally saw their daughter on a stretcher it confirmed their worst fears. Emily had suffered life-altering injuries, a broken neck, and couldn’t move her arms or legs.

Doctors originally told Jon and Kari Traveller that “after an MRI assessment they determined her neck was broken and told them she’d probably never move her arms and legs again.”

Emily Traveller, an athletic teen who partakes in competitive gym, cheerleading, skiing and loves being outdoors with friends. Emily’s mom Kari says she was worried about the long-lasting effects of the accident. (Courtesy of the Traveller family)

As an active teen, when the ability to move your body is revoked, not only does it take a physical toll, but a mental one as well.

“She told us she is taking this head on and focusing on what she can do and not what she can’t do,” said Kari Traveller.

Courtesy of the Traveller family

Emily is already defying the odds. After just over a week in the hospital she’s making progress on her road to recovery. ABC4 was able to speak to Emily via zoom. She said she’s been able to move her arms a little and is grateful for doctors at Utah Valley Hospital who have been working with her.

“Mentally she’s staying so tough, her body is responding to her, and it’s been a lesson for us on what positive thinking can do. The community support has been huge for her, she’s internalized it and it’s pushing her to fight,” Kari Traveller told ABC4.

Students at her school, as well as the cheer team and staff have been rallying around Emily during this fight. Many of whom have visited her in the hospital leaving posters, cards, prayers and just all-around good vibes.

Emily’s sophomore prom was on Saturday, and even though she was in the hospital, she was greeted with a visit by her date dressed to the nines as if they were going to the dance.

Courtesy of the Traveller family

Emily has been undergoing treatment at Utah Valley Hospital and will continue for the next few days and then the Traveller family will relocate to Denver for intensive physical therapy to help Emily regain functionality, as doctors recommended a facility there that specializes in spinal injuries.

Emily and family will spend the majority of the summer in Denver as she continues her fight to recovery. Emily says she is not sure what her future in cheerleading will look like after this accident, but she’s maintaining a positive outlook.

Kari Traveller said she is thankful for all of the outpouring of support from the community, some of it even from out of state.

“I tell everyone who comes to see her that they are healing this girl whether it’s by prayer, bonding together, or positive vibes. It’s healing her mentally which is healing her body,” says Kari Traveller. “We can’t avoid hard things if we can come together and support one another, there’s a special healing that goes on there”, Traveller adds.

Courtesy of the Traveller family

A family member has organized a go fund me account to help with medical expenses. For those who want to follow Emily along her journey, you can do so on a Facebook page dedicated to sharing updates on Emily’s progress as she works to regain feeling and getting back to doing the things she loves.

Courtesy of the Traveller family

#EmilyStrong