Kalamazoo shooting survivor, 14, heads home at last

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Story highlights

  • Abigail Kopf, 14, shot in the head during a Kalamazoo shooting spree, headed home from rehab Wednesday
  • Mother: "To see where she is today is amazing"

(CNN)Two months after she was shot in the head, her heart stopped beating and her parents began preparing their goodbyes, 14-year-old Abigail Kopf walked out of a Michigan rehab center Wednesday, weak but smiling.

"She is delighted to be heading home," said her father, Gene Kopf.
    It's a miraculous recovery for the Battle Creek, Michigan, teen, who was shot February 20 in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Kalamazoo. Police say she was shot by Jason Brian Dalton as he went on a five-hour shooting spree in between picking up fares as an Uber driver.
    "Abbie has done great," said her mother, Vickie Kopf. "To see where she is today is amazing."
    While returning home is a major sign of improvement, Abigail is on a long road to recovery. She can talk, feed and dress herself, but the injury has thrown off her depth perception, and someone must assist her as she walks. She also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that causes her to wake up screaming from nightmares.
    Her father says she will continue rehab five days a week, and her long-term medical needs are unpredictable at best. She will need surgery to repair parts of her skull that were shattered by the bullet.
    "She has made remarkable progress," said Dr. A.J. Rush, a pediatric psychiatrist who led her care at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, where she underwent up to eight hours of rehab a day. "I expect Abbie will continue to improve with intensive outpatient therapy," added Rush, who will continue to oversee her care.
    The outlook was very different two months ago, when the Kopfs began making arrangements for their daughter's organs to be donated.
    "Doctors worked frantically to save her, but ultimately, nothing could be done. They announced the time, and left us with our baby," Vickie Kopf wrote recently on Abigail's GoFundMe page, which the family created to help with her medical expenses.
    Staffers at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital applaud as Abigail and her mother, Vickie, leave for home.
    But then a miracle happened. While her mother was holding Abigail's hand, the girl suddenly squeezed back. Doctors were able to get Abigail's heart beating again, and her condition since has steadily improved.
    Dalton, 45, is accused of killing six people and injuring two more. Among the dead was Abigail's honorary grandmother, Barbara Hawthorne, and her friends: Dorothy Brown, Mary Lou Nye and Mary Jo Nye. He remains behind bars and will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine his competence to stand trial.
    Abigail's doctor has suggested the family start investing money now to cover her future medical needs.
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    "Otherwise, she'll be stuck down the road with no income, or very limited income, trying to work when she's not fully capable of working," Gene Kopf said. "And essentially that would mean that the shooter has robbed a fruitful future for her."
    In addition to the GoFundMe page, the Kopfs have launched new Facebook and Twitter profiles to provide updates about Abigail, raise money and help the community find some closure in the aftermath of the shootings.
    "We are very grateful for the outpouring of support, but we would appreciate privacy so we can focus on our family," said Gene Kopf. "We are having necessary modifications done to our home, and Abbie needs time to heal."
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