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Girl wounded in Paducah likely to remain paraplegic

Melissa Jenkins
Melissa Jenkins is paralyzed from the waist down   
December 11, 1997
Web posted at: 1:56 p.m. EST (1856 GMT)

PADUCAH, Kentucky (CNN) -- Melissa Jenkins, a high school student paralyzed during a shooting spree blamed on a classmate, is likely to be left paraplegic by a spinal cord injury and could face years of rehabilitation, doctors said on Thursday.

"There is little, if any, substantial possibility or probability that Missy Jenkins will ever walk again," said Dr. Shawn Jones, a family friend.

Jenkins told The Paducah Sun that she is determined to overcome her injury. "I'm going to keep saying I can, and hope I will walk," she told the newspaper from her bed in Lourdes Hospital in Paducah.

Watch the news conference held by Melissa Jenkins' father, Ray, and her physician, Dr. Monte Rommelman
icon 28 min. VXtreme streaming video

"She's a fighter," her father, Ray, said during a news conference with Jones and Melissa's physician, Dr. Monte Rommelman.

The injured girl, who turns 16 on Christmas Eve, was shot in the chest and "has no sensation or movement below the level of her injuries," said Rommelman, a rehabilitation specialist.

Describing Jenkins as being in "spinal shock," the doctor said her spinal cord is "intact but not functional." (icon268K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

"It will be a matter of long-term rehabilitation for Missy with the anticipation that she will be a paraplegic," Rommelman said. "She can live a normal life, but it will be from a wheelchair."

Faith and e-mail

Heath High School lobby
Lobby where the shooting occurred   

The doctors and Melissa's father said the girl's religious beliefs were helping her cope with her situation. Her "faith in Jesus Christ is extremely deep," Jones said.

"Her faith is reason why she's not bitter," Ray Jenkins added. He called Melissa "forgiving and a good Christian girl." But he declined to say whether she had forgiven Michael Carneal, a 14-year freshman at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky, who, authorities say, has confessed to the shootings.

On Wednesday a judge ordered that Carneal be tried as an adult, sources said after a closed hearing.

"We're trusting the good Lord to do everything He can for her," Ray Jenkins said. "And whatever he gives us back we're going to take with open arms."

Melissa Jenkins is one of eight students shot on December 1 as a daily prayer session was ending just before the start of classes at Heath.

Melissa's father thanks community for its support
icon 257K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Three teen-age girls were killed. Jenkins and classmate Shelly Schaberg were partially paralyzed. Three other students -- one girl and two boys -- suffered lesser injuries.

The school and the injured students have received a large number of sympathy messages from around the world, Ray Jenkins said.

Referring to print-outs of computer messages that have arrived for Melissa, he held up his thumb and forefinger wide apart and said: "She's got two books about this thick with e-mail, right now."

The messages are being forwarded through a Web site set up by the school.


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