Katie Lentz gets a little stronger every day.
Three weeks ago the19-year-old Quincy-native's life changed on Missouri Route 19 in rural Ralls County, Mo. There her car collided head on with a vehicle driven by a man crash investigators say was under the influence of alcohol.
Trapped and scared that rescue workers would be unable to free her from the wreckage, Lentz asked the firefighters and EMS workers summoned to save her life to pray with her.
A traveling priest appeared seemingly out of nowhere to pray with Katie and the rescue crew.
Together they prayed out loud.
The head-on collision nearly took her life. She suffered more than a dozen broken bones. The aspiring dentist attends Tulane University but was forced to put college on hold.
Her spirit touched hundreds of thousands of people around the world, but in recovery, she remains grounded in both spirt and faith.
"I haven't come to the full realization that I had a near death experience," she said during an interview Wednesday at Blessing Hospital. "It hasn't hit me yet."
Lentz has had to relearn everyday tasks that most people take for granted. For example, she has had to relearn how to put on her shoes.
The classically trained violinist works on her fine motor skills using pegs that help restore the strength and dexterity of her fingers. Doctors removed countless stitches from her leg, which she said was extremely painful. She can now walk 150 feet down a hallway without stopping.
"Every day is different though, because some days they really work me hard, and I'm so sore afterwards," she said. "I'm not having a whole lot of pain right now, so everything is manageable, tolerable. It's going pretty well. I try hard everyday."
Lentz received cards from people across the country, many from people she has never met. There also will be a celebration of her survival at a Sept. 4 benefit at the Quincy City Hall parking lot. "It is hard sometimes, but I realize that so many people have been touched by this, so I have to keep focused on the good and not bad, because it'll just bring me down, and I definitely don't want that," she said.
Lentz is grateful for these little steps she's taken, but she knows they wouldn't be possible without help from the first responders, Air Evac, Rev. Patrick Dowling and Blessing Hospital staff.
"I know how hard it was for me, and I can't even imagine how hard it was for them," she said. "I had no idea what state my body was in at that time, and they all knew. They had to work around many obstacles getting me out of the car, so I'd just like to say thank you to all of them for staying calm. And their calmness kept me calm as well, too, so I cannot express my gratitude enough toward them."
"I think the message of just holding onto faith and just holding on to life in general, that I was so close to death. That's what I did, what I clinged to, other people can do the same."You can watch Lentz's full interview by clicking here.