— In the first public photos to emerge since she accidentally walked into a plane propeller six weeks ago, Dallas-area model and fashion blogger Lauren Scruggs is a vision of hope.
The 23-year-old from Plano, Texas, was photographed while leaving her rehabilitation center in Dallas Tuesday, walking without assistance and appearing relaxed with her blonde hair tucked under a Dallas Cowboys hat. She had a white patch concealing the removal of her left eye as a result of the accident, and had her jacket pulled down over her left arm. (Scruggs’ left hand was severed in the accident, and she also suffered head and shoulder injuries.)
The model nicknamed “Lo” walked with her parents, Cheryl and Jeff, and her twin sister Brittany outside the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas and was seen smiling and joking with her family.
“I don’t know how to thank each one of you, properly, for so much love during this difficult incident in my life,’’ Scruggs wrote on her blog on Jan. 9. “My heart is so grateful beyond what I could ever imagine. So thank you dearly for the sweet encouragements, the precious words in letters and messages, the beautiful grace in pretty presents, but mostly I am so SO thankful for you and your loving hearts and sweet spirits.’’
The creator of the fashion-based LoLo Magazine, Scruggs had gone on a plane to view Christmas lights in the Dallas area on Dec. 3 and accidentally walked into the propeller in darkness after the plane landed. The pilot, Kurt Anderson, a friend of Scruggs, told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board in a report that he warned her to walk in the other direction from the spinning propeller in the front of the plane.
“Upon noticing that she was exiting in front of the strut, the pilot leaned out of his seat and placed his right hand and arm in front of her to divert her away from the front of the airplane and the propeller," the report states.
Anderson had left the propeller running because he was waiting for another passenger. When Scruggs walked beyond the wing, Anderson asked who was flying next before hearing someone yell “Stop! Stop!’’ and then seeing Scruggs lying on the runway, according to the report.
While Scruggs has made remarkable progress, her grueling rehabilitation has been difficult for her family to witness. Her mother has been posting regular updates on the site CaringBridge.org that have received more than a million pageviews.
“I hesitate a bit, as I want to appear upbeat and positive, but I'm burdened,’’ Cheryl Scruggs wrote on the site Wednesday. “More burdened than I have ever been. I'm burdened for my sweet girl.
“It's hard to watch the reality face to face, even though we KNOW that God will never leave us or forsake us. We know all of the ‘right answers.’ But it doesn't change what happened, and it is just plain hard to watch Lo come to grips with the fact that she has lost her hand and lost her eye. It's hard to hear her tears.’’
While Scruggs continues to improve, she still has a long road ahead, physically and mentally, according to psychiatrist and TODAY contributor Dr. Gail Saltz.
“She’s still a beautiful girl but she’s lost sight in one eye,’’ Saltz said. “She’s lost one hand. It means a lot of work ahead in terms of accepting these losses and figuring out how you’re going to function both physically and psychologically going forward. Being a model, this has been her identity, and what is in store for her is a lot of work to find a new identity and a new source of success and feeling good about herself.’’
Emotional support for the recovering Scruggs continues to build. On Wednesday evening, People.com reports, E! host Giuliana Rancic tweeted encouraging words for the model. “Inspired by you @Lauren Scruggs,” Rancic wrote. “You will come out of this stronger w/more meaning to ur life.” Scruggs replied in kind, tweeting “Thanks so much @Guiliana Rancic. I really appreciate it.” Scruggs also alluded to Rancic’s battles with breast cancer, adding “I believe your sweet words. Hope you are doing well too.”