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Hilton Comes Home

March 08, 1999

Xanthe HiltonBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




STATE LINE, Pa. - To the tune of the garage-band anthem, "Louie, Louie," Girl Scout Troop 896 on Sunday welcomed back one of its own: "Xanthe, Xanthe, Oh girl, we missed you so."

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On Tuesday, students in John Root's fourth-grade class at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School also will welcome back Xanthe Hilton, 9, who has made what her mother called "an amazing recovery" from a December accident that left her in a coma.

Xanthe's parents, Donald Hilton and Karin Johnson, of Greencastle, Pa., threw a party at the Living Hope Community Church to celebrate her recovery and thank the many people who lent their support during the past three months.

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On the night of Friday, Dec. 11, the family was helping a woman from their church move, Johnson said. Xanthe left to buy some sodas at the Sheetz store on West Baltimore Street.

Johnson said two cars stopped at the crosswalk, but another vehicle came around them and hit Xanthe.

"According to the police report, she went 77 feet through the air," Hilton said. His daughter suffered brain damage, a fractured skull, liver and spleen injuries and a broken collar bone, rib and thigh.

He choked up as he remembered the call he got at work and hearing the sirens in the background.Johnson said Xanthe was in a coma for four days. Hilton said he and Karin spent much of the next three months at the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.

He said Xanthe spent 10 days at Johns Hopkins Hospital, followed by seven weeks of inpatient care at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute and another four weeks of outpatient care there.

On Sunday, Xanthe opened presents from friends, some of whom she might never have met but for the accident. Except for the walker she uses while her leg mends, there is little evidence the girl batting around helium balloons nearly died.

Xanthe doesn't remember the accident. "When I first woke up I remember getting my Christmas presents," she said.

She returned from Baltimore on Friday and is anxious to get back to school with her friends.

"I never met Xanthe until today," said Kaye Cripe of Greencastle. She had met Johnson before the accident and became one of about 80 people who communicated with the family via e-mail while they were at the Ronald McDonald House.

"I don't think she realizes how many lives she touched," Cripe said.

Beside moral support, many people gave of their time to help the family. Johnson, a part-time clinical psychologist, said that included helping take care of their son Zac, 12, while she and her husband were in Baltimore.

"A lot of people just came out of the woodwork. We'd come home and someone had cleaned the house from top to bottom," said Hilton, an air traffic controller who works in Leesburg Va.

"I was glad to give back, because people have given to me so many times," said Marcie Seidel of Greencastle, who was among those who lent a helping hand.

Root said several of his students visited Xanthe at the hospital, sent cards and helped other district students collect 75 pounds of aluminum can pop tops to benefit the Ronald McDonald House.

"It's just a celebration because she's alive. ... She had a miracle," Johnson said about the party.

On the program for the party was an old Yiddish proverb: "God gave burdens, also shoulders."

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