An immeasurable amount of tragedy has emerged following the Aurora, Colorado, shooting massacre. But among the stories of loss and pain is the fascinating, inspirational and practically-unbelievable tale of 22-year-old Petra Anderson's miracle recovery.
On Friday, the young woman joined countless others in heading to Century 16 Movie Theater to see "The Dark Night Rises." In the end, she was one of the victims facing serious injury early that morning, sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, including taking a bullet through her brain.
Being shot a total of four times, Anderson's injuries were extensive. While the first three bullets hit her arm, the fourth went through her nose, heading up through her cranium and reaching all the way to the back of her skull, The Huffington Post reports.
Obviously, her condition was critical. The seriousness was underscored by the fact that doctors feared Anderson would lose control over her speech, motor and/or cognitive abilities. To get a sense of the true level of concern, consider what Anderson's pastor, Brad Strait, wrote on his blog about Anderson's injuries:
With awesome people from our caring and pastoral team, I spent all day Friday in the ICU with Petra and her family. Her injuries were severe, and her condition was critical. A bullet had entered Petra’s face through her nose, and then traveled up through her brain until stopping at the back of her skull. The doctors prior to surgery were concerned, because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet. Many areas of brain function were involved. They were hoping to keep her alive long enough to get her into surgery. The prognosis was uncertain—if she lived, Petra might struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage. With Kim, Petra’s mother (who is in the final stages of terminal cancer), we simply cried, hugged, and prayed.
But, alas, during a five-hour surgery, the unthinkable happened. Doctors were able to remove the bullet seamlessly and Anderson's brain, remarkably, sustained very little damage. Now, this seems like an impossibility, but the young woman reportedly had a birth defect that had previously gone unnoticed -- a tiny vein of fluid that extended through her skull. So small, in fact, that it would only be detectable on a CAT Scan.
The New York Daily News explains how this bizarre abnormality actually saved Anderson's life when the bullet entered her head:
Doctors said the bullet traveled through the vein, just missing the vital parts of Anderson's brain.
Strait said that a doctor told him the surgery “couldn’t have gone any better,” and that if Anderson was his daughter he’d “be dancing a jig.”
The recent University of Pacific graduate has continued to improve since the surgery.
She was moved from the ICU Monday, according to a post by Anderson’s older sister, Chloe Anderson, on a Facebook page for Petra.
She’s started to walk and speak again, as well.
"She could have lost all kinds of function [if] the bullet traversed her brain," her mother said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. "I believe that she was not only protected by God, but that she was actually prepared for it."
The miracle recovery is making rounds in media, as many grapple to comprehend the odds of the bullet hitting the same location as a previously-unfounded (and life-saving) birth defect. While Anderson is recovering, her family is in need of financial help to offset the cost of her medical treatment and her mother's as well (as mentioned in Strait's blog, the young woman's mother, Kim, is dying of cancer).
An online campaign has been launched on Indiegogo, as evidenced, below. As if 7:15 ET on Tuesday, it has already brought in $82,590:
Accompanying the fundraising plea is a video featuring Anderson's sister, Chloe, that further explains the situation and the family's needs.
"Our family has been shaken by the events of last Friday but we have not been broken," Chloe said. "We're watching heroes appear everywhere we look."
Watch the video, below:
"There is much ahead. More surgeries. Facial reconstruction, perhaps," Strait wrote. "And for Kim, chemo therapy to stretch every moment out of life. But life remains. The ending is yet to be written for this family."
Sometimes, miracles truly do happen.