It was the radio call no police officer ever wants to hear: a report of a shooting at a high school with one person dead.
Police Officer Chad Schieber was the first on the scene at H.H. Dow High School in Midland, Mich., where 17-year-old David Turner was dead from a self-inflicted wound to the head. His girlfriend, 17-year-old Jessica Forsyth, lay on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds, but was still conscious.
Forsyth had been shot at close range. Her mother, Rhonda Poston, who witnessed the shooting from her car, held Forsyth's body, trying to simultaneously stop the blood and distract her daughter. Poston held her hand over the smoke that was coming out of Forsyth's back, where a bullet had punctured her skin. Forsyth repeatedly screamed to her mom, "I don't want to die. I don't want to die."
Miraculously, Forsyth survived, not just because her mother was there to care for her, but because of an extraordinary bit of luck she had been carrying with her for years: a six-inch titanium plate in her collar bone.
Her lucky charm was the result of a stream of bad luck. When she was 8 years old, Forsyth broke her collarbone when her brother pushed her off a merry-go-round. Five years later, when Forsyth was 14 years old, she fell off her bike and broke her collarbone again. This time, the bone split in half.
Her injury was so severe that doctors used a titanium plate about the length of a pencil to heal the fracture. Forsyth felt anything but lucky, and for years she tried to hide the scar on her collarbone.
The scar didn't keep Turner from falling in love with her. Their relationship started off happily, but when he started having abrupt mood changes, Forsyth said, it began to sour.
"We would break up and then he would ask me back out," she said. "And he would be sweet and I would say, 'Yeah.' And then we would break up again and he would do it again."
Eventually, she ended the relationship. On March 7, 2007, she agreed to meet him to retrieve a sentimental keepsake — a small ladybug clock — given to her by her father. Poston drove Forsyth to her school to meet Turner, and the meeting turned ugly almost immediately. According to Forsyth, Turner asked her, "Why did you break up with me?" She said Turner then pulled his backpack off his shoulder and started going through it.
Poston, watching from the car, said she could sense that something bad was about to happen, and she was right. Instead of producing the clock Forsyth was expecting, Turned pulled out a gun.
At 10:57 a.m., the 911 line rang at police headquarters. It was a school administrator reporting the shooting. At the scene, Poston, still in her car, jammed on the accelerator in an attempt to get between her daughter and Turner, but it was too late. After shooting Forsyth four times with a powerful .44-caliber Magnum, Turner turned the gun on himself.
Forsyth said she was stunned. "All I remember is a loud noise and my ear stinging," she said, "and then I felt a jolt and I just went back. I thought he was pushing me and I yelled, 'My ear. I can't hear.'"
It wasn't until she saw blood that she realized she had been shot. "And then all of a sudden the pain just hit me all at once and I started screaming," she said. By the time Officer Schieber arrived on the scene, Forsyth was in her mother's arms, afraid she would die.
Unlikely Lucky Charm
Forsyth was flown by helicopter to nearby Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich., where doctors would soon discover just how lucky she was. At the hospital, trauma surgeon Dr. Greg Casey pointed out on Forsyth's X-ray that one 44-caliber bullet that was en route to her major blood vessels, spine and even her heart, was blocked by the six-inch titanium plate in her collarbone. The metal plate she so badly wished she didn't have had likely saved her life.
Casey said that "[Forsyth's] very, very lucky that she had that plate there. It probably saved her life. If [the bullet] had struck her spinal column, we might be dealing with a quadriplegic patient or a paraplegic patient. She was blessed to have that plate."
Two other bullets pierced Forsyth's chest and shoulder, and the fourth bullet shattered a bone in her arm, but her mother said she couldn't believe how lucky they were. "There are just no words. There is just … [I'm] dumbfounded. I just stand here and wonder how lucky we are that [the bullet] just stopped. It's just a miracle."
A Second Life Saved
There was even more amazing news from Forsyth's doctors. The metal plate had saved another life: Forsyth was four months pregnant. "I was actually in the emergency room and the doctor came over and told me, and I yelled at him. I did. I remember I was so mad," she said. "I told him to go back and check it again."
Initially, Forsyth was angry, but when she saw the ultrasound she decided that her baby — even though it was fathered by the troubled young man who had shot her before taking his own life — symbolized good luck, not bad. Forsyth's mother felt lucky, too.
"We're just so blessed that we still have her," she said, "and in addition to that we're going to have a baby!"