New wheelchair for DC woman struck in hit-and-run accident

A young D.C. woman is moving forward after being struck in a hit-and-run accident. Esmerelda Lovos was thrown from her wheelchair during the December accident, and after months of waiting, she got a new set of wheels on Wednesday.

She got the special delivery at HSC Pediatric Center. One look at the new wheelchair and Esmerelda was all smiles.

"Oh my gosh!" she exclaimed giving her occupational therapist a fist bump. "Awesome. I like it."

She hopped in to see how it fit. It took a few tweaks to get just it just right. It was a little too high, so the seat was lowered an inch or so. Then it was time for a little tutorial and a test drive.

"You push it once and it's on," the therapist demonstrated, showing how to work the specialized wheels that help propel it.

Then it was Esmerelda's turn. She took a spin down the hallway and back, laughing with joy. Since the accident, she has been using a manual wheelchair.

"It's been hard pushing myself because sometimes I get tired," Esmerelda explained.

The new wheelchair practically pushes itself.

"It feels good, very easy," she said.

It has been a long road for the 19-year-old who has spina bifida. Since being hit by a car in December crossing New Hampshire Avenue and Taylor Street in Northwest D.C., she has leaned on her dad for support.

"I'm taking her to school and picking her up," said her father Jeremias Lovos.

She was on her way to catch the bus to school at the University of District Columbia when she was hit that day. She still has not gone back to the intersection.

"I still have that effect of me being afraid of it," said Esmerelda.

It has affected her father too. He believes she is on the right track and hopes she will get her confidence and independence back.

"I think I'm being a little more overprotective than I was before," Lovos said.

The accident destroyed Esmerelda's $20,000 custom wheelchair. Her insurance company replaced it with a new one, but for months, it has been a struggle getting around while the person who hit her is still out there.

"That's not fair," she said. "To me, it's not fair."

There were no witnesses to the hit-and-run, but Esmerelda did catch a glimpse of the car, described as a four-door gray vehicle.

At the time, investigators planned to look at traffic cameras in the area to see if they captured the damaged vehicle getting away, but the family says police still have no suspects or new leads as of now.

"It's frustrating," Lovos said.

Esmerelda doesn't like to think about the accident. She hopes the person who hits her one day faces the consequences.

In the meantime, the family is trying to move on. One of the final steps is her new wheelchair. It is giving her some of her independence back and it did not take long for her to adjust.

She calls it the "BMW" of wheelchairs. Her therapist has not seen anyone catch on this fast.

"For her to do it on the first push, be able to do it, stop it because it's not natural with how the system stops, she did it on the first try without one flaw," said Erika Lawyer, an occupational therapist at HSC Pediatric Center.

Esmerelda says she is waiting for all the snow to melt, to get out her new wheelchair and celebrate.

"It's over and nothing happened to me and I'm back to where I started," she said.