Julia Short is grateful for each step she takes.

Last April, when she was an 18-year-old high school senior, she was severely injured in an automobile accident that nearly severed her right ankle.

This fall, she and her parents, Barbara and Chris Short, returned to the Center for Rehabilitation at Wilmington Hospital to say thank you to the people who helped her walk again.

The Shorts presented a plaque to the doctor, nurses, therapists and techs who cared for her, inscribed with the words: “Forever grateful for a life saved.”

“We want to thank you all for helping Julia,” Mrs. Short said.

Julia came to the Rehabilitation Center after a two-week stay at Christiana Hospital, where she was treated for multiple injuries, including a broken hip, fractured vertebra in her neck, a dissected carotid artery, skull fracture and trauma to her right ankle.

“It looked like a shark bite,” she recalled.

The Shorts, who live Middletown, took turns staying in a patient- and family-centered room on the unit so that they could be with their daughter. They even brought the family dog, a bichon named Sugar, for a visit to cheer her up.

During her two weeks at the Rehabilitation Center, Julia received physical, occupational and speech therapy, and 24-hour nursing care. She relearned such tasks as getting dressed, getting in and out of a car and retrieving objects from a shelf.

“It took a small village to take care of me,” she said.

Climbing stairs was her most difficult challenge.

“She literally did not have a good foot to stand on, with the hip fracture on the left and the severe ankle injury on the right,” said Kelly Eschbach, M.D., section chief, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

More than 700 patients pass through the Center for Rehabilitation each year, said Felisha Alderson, MSN, RN, CRNN, nurse manager. Like Julia, 82 percent of them go directly home from the Rehabilitation Center rather than to a nursing home or other facility, a rate far better than the national average.

Because rehab patients typically stay for a number of days and work hands-on with the staff, they often form a bond with the people who help them, Alderson said. A number of patients write thank-you notes. A few call regularly to stay in touch.

The Shorts also planned to visit the Emergency Department at Christiana Hospital to present a plaque to say thanks to the team that provided Julia with expert care.

Today, Julia is 19, a student at the University of Delaware and considering a career in nursing.

“We have so much to be grateful for,” her father said.