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Family ends silence on girl's slow recovery from severe brain damage

Viri Orozco-Hernandez is one of two girls hit by van April 20 while walking home from school in Gresham


OUTLOOK PHOTO: JODI WEINBERGER - Dr. Juan Piantino, pediatricic neurologist, says Viri Orozco-Hernandez has a long road to recovery. He spoke about her condition during a press conference with Viri's sister, Yahaira, and mother, Fatima.Fatima Orozco-Hernandez has not left her daughter’s side since the day she was airlifted from Kane Drive in Gresham to the trauma ward at Oregon Health and Science University.

Viri Orozco-Hernandez was walking home with a friend from Gordon Russell Middle School on April 20 when a woman driving a Nancy’s Floral delivery van reportedly ran a red light and struck the 13-year-old girls as they made their way through the crosswalk.

On May 11, Dr. Juan Piantino, a pediatric neurologist at OHSU, upgraded Viri’s status from critical to serious. She’s able to open her eyes and look around the room, but because of the severe brain damage she suffered she is not yet able to speak or move her limbs normally, Piantino said.

When asked whether she would be able to lead a normal life once recovered, the doctor said it was too soon to tell. He was also not able to say when she would be able to go home from the hospital, only that months of physical and speech therapy awaited her.

“She will struggle with speech,” Piantino said. “The extent of her recovery is unknown at this point.”

Yahaira Orozco-Hernandez, Viri’s 16-year-old sister, translated questions for her mother and spoke on the family’s behalf, thanking the hundreds who have come forward offering their prayers and support. Viri has two younger brothers, Chris, 4, and Alan, 2.

“She has not spoken to any of us, but we feel she has her own way of communicating with us, just following of the eyes, and her knowing we’re present helps a lot,” Yahaira said.

Through tears, Yahaira described Viri as “the best sister anyone can have,” calling her very kind and funny. She loves to run and play soccer, her sister said.

The last time Yahaira saw her sister was the night before the accident, when they were joking around with their brothers.

Viri and her friend, Raquelin Velasco Gutierrez, were walking home from Gordon Russell Middle School at 4:20 p.m. April 20 on a route they take nearly every day, when Deann Marie Lepoidevin, 44, of Gresham, ran the red light in a Nancy’s Floral van and struck the girls.

Lepoidevin has not been issued any citations at this time. She told The Outlook in an exclusive interview that she suffered a complex partial seizure, which caused her to black out while delivering flowers.

Lepoidevin had worked as a driver for Nancy’s Floral for three years, but was fired the day after the accident.

The investigation on the crash is still on going, police said May 11. Police immediately ruled out drug or alcohol use or distracted driving. Police did not comment on Lepoidevin’s medical condition, but said it was one of the aspects being investigated.

Lepoidevin said she previously only had seizures in her sleep, but had recently started the process of switching medicines, which she believes may have contributed to the seizure. She has since switched back to the original medicine she was on, but was told by her doctor not to drive for three months.

At the time of the crash, Lepoidevin had a friend in the car with her that frequently went along on deliveries just to get out of the house.

“The friend told me after that he kept saying my name and said, ‘Red light, red light!” Lepoidevin said, noting that she doesn't remember anything after making a right turn on Kane Drive.

Following the crash, the friend was able to pull the emergency break which brought the car to a stop against the side of the road, Lepoidevin said.

Since the crash, Lepoidevin has been going to therapy weekly, but often wakes up in the middle of the night crying. She want to apologize to the girls, but doesn’t know how the families would feel about contact.

Fatima Orozco-Hernandez did not comment when asked how she felt toward Lepoidevin.

Meanwhile, Lepoidevin is in limbo, awaiting the completion of the police investigation.

“These things take time and we’re still looking to connect with some eyewitnesses,” Police spokesman John Rasmussen said. “So if anybody has not come forward to talk to us yet about it, we still want to talk with them.”