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Hundreds welcome home Henderson woman injured in wrong-way crash

Updated January 22, 2022 - 7:00 pm

After nearly losing her life and spending 136 days in the hospital, Deedra Russell was excited to be going home to Henderson.

She and her husband, Troy, left a hospital in St. George, Utah, on Saturday morning. A few hours later, she returned home to a massive ovation, as hundreds of people lined the street outside the Russell house to welcome her back.

“I just broke down, started crying,” Troy Russell said.

Deedra Russell was critically injured in a crash in northwest Arizona on Sept. 8, when a wrong-way driver collided with her vehicle in the middle of the night as she was going to visit her son at college.

The Russells already had endured tragedy six years earlier. Austen Russell, 9, died in May 2015 after his father accidentally ran over him with his pickup at their Henderson home. Then last year, the crash reignited support for the Russells, as family and friends — and even the BYU football team — rallied to help the family.

Deedra Russell had just started on a sweeping renovation of the house before the crash, and her best friend, Danielle Avila, was determined to finish the project before she returned home.

Avila almost finished it in time. A few walls still need to be painted, but when Deedra Russell walked through the door of her home for the first time in over five months on Saturday, she saw a completely transformed house.

“No sleep the last two days,” Avila said with a laugh.

Outpouring of support

A Facebook page in Austen’s memory has over 4,000 followers, and a family friend, Shannon Wolven, has posted updates on Deedra Russell’s condition since the crash. A post encouraged people to come welcome her home, but the turnout was even better than expected.

The Foothill High School cheer and dance teams stood out front, while others held signs and wore “AR #3” shirts to honor Austen with the jersey number he wore in sports. Troy and Deedra had a police escort out of St. George, and they showed up in his car with “woman of steel” drawn on the passenger side and “husband of the year” on the driver’s side.

“Really, really heartwarming,” Deedra Russell said, surrounded by friends and family in her home. “I actually feel 100 times better just being here.”

Troy Russell said last week that there were four times he thought she wouldn’t make it in the hospital.

She made multiple trips to the intensive care unit and had a seizure in December. A kidney problem means she needs dialysis three times a week, and she may need a kidney replacement.

Staff at the hospital told the Russells they’d only had one other patient who stayed longer, at least in recent memory: former NBA player Shawn Bradley, who was paralyzed from the chest down after he was struck by a van while riding his bicycle in January 2021.

Her two daughters were able to visit her three times only because of COVID restrictions at the hospital, but her husband drove back and forth each week. Still, remarkably, a family member was with her for all 136 nights — one of her sisters in Utah or Troy.

Hannah Rehrer and her family were there to welcome Deedra Russell home. Her daughters are friends with the Russells, she said, and she’s done whatever she can to help out during the past few months.

“They’re the best family we know,” she said. “Everyone loves the Russells.”

Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan@reviewjournal.com. Follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter.

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