Popular Teen Shot in Face by First Love

"There was blood and human tissue. It was horrible, I mean, till this day, I couldn't put myself to see it again," Santiago said.

Unable to get through to 911, Santiago drove Orozco to the hospital -- in rush hour traffic. With the severity of her injury, doctors said the fact that Orozco made it to the hospital alive was in itself miraculous.

"There [was] bleeding everywhere, the face, what was remaining, was shredded. It was really, really destroyed," said Dr. Michael Fritz, Orozco's facial plastic surgeon at Metro Health Hospital.

Fritz said the most critical factor in keeping Orozco alive was maintaining an airway.

"When you lose the front of your jaw, where it's just blood and swelling and pieces of bone everywhere, your airway is just going to close off very rapidly," he said. "I don't really know how she maintained an airway coming in. That was probably the most amazing thing."

When Fritz first met Orozco in that hospital room, he said he couldn't believe that just a few days before the shooting, she was a normal high school senior, planning for prom and graduation.

CLICK HERE to see photos of Orozco's recovery.

"What really struck me," he said, "is that she had this really fancy fingernail work done with, stars and moons, and it just really struck me how this girl was just in high school the other day, and was doing her nails. So I knew the bar was going to be set very high."

'I Felt Like A Monster'

After the shotgun blast, Orozco was missing her entire chin, upper neck and most of her lower lip.

"The first time I did look in the mirror ... I just broke down and cried," she told Vargas. "I felt like a monster."

In an operation that lasted 13 hours, Dr. Fritz established a new jaw by using a piece of skin and bone from Johanna's leg. It took months for Orozco to regain the most basic functions, like talking or eating. Since then, Dr. Fritz has performed nine surgeries on Orozco to help soften scarring and improve her ability to speak.

CLICK HERE to see photos of Orozco's recovery

This wasn't the first tragedy in Orozco's life. At 13, her mother died of kidney failure. Eleven days later, her father died in a car accident. Orozco and her brother, Kevin, were then raised by their grandparents.

But through it all, Orozco has never once felt sorry for herself. "This happened for a reason, and right now it must be terrible and horrible, but it has a good reason why it happened," she told Vargas about her accident.

In August 2007, Ruiz pleaded guilty to charges of rape and attempted murder. One month later, he was sentenced to 27 years, without the possibility of parole.

Two and Half Years Later

Two and a half years since that horrific day, Orozco knows she will continue the reconstructive and healing process for many years to come.

"We can make a lot of progress," said Dr. Fritz, "but if you look closely at her, I'm never going to make it look like nothing happened. I can't."

But nothing can slow down Orozco, who has turned her story into an example for others. She now speaks to groups of teenagers, urging girls to leave violent relationships and is lobbying for state legislation that would provide protection orders for threatened teens.

"There's something about her...she has just this indomitable spirit," Fritz said. "She's going to make the world a better place. She's unstoppable."

CLICK HERE for warning signs of teen dating violence.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...