Living Miracles: Survivors of Gunshots to the Head


A more philosophical man now, he added, "On the flip side of that, you could also say, 'Why not me?' The position I was in and the love and support from both my family and friends actually put us in a pretty good position to be able to cope and deal with this.

There's people that would crumble from an occurrence like this. We were able to overcome it and come out better on the back end."

Asked if there ever are moments when he's shaken by what happened to him, he said: "No. I sleep very well."

Yet, he revealed that in simply talking about Giffords' brain injuries, "it certainly brings back memories. Your heart starts to race a little bit. I actually start to feel … like when you're about to faint."

Weintraub, who oversaw Ireland's rehabilitation, said his injuries resembled those the Arizona congresswoman suffered in Saturday's Tucson shootings. "He offers incredible hope and inspiration to what can happen from the anatomy of this type of injury," Weintraub said.

Andrea Michalkova Scott

On Feb. 1, 2010, Andrea Michalkova Scott was left for dead after an attempted robbery and execution-style shooting in a parking lot at Jackson State University in Mississippi, where she was a research chemist in the Interdisciplinary Center for Nanotoxicity.

But thanks to the nature of her wound and the actions of a Good Samaritan that night, she remained conscious and was able to instruct the young man in how to call her husband. Within a month of the shooting, which caused facial paralysis, partial hearing loss and debilitating headaches, she was again working in her field of computational chemistry.

Her husband, Bill Scott, said doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center told him she was "very lucky." CT scans of her brain show a trail of bullet fragments around her left ear, a large fragment in the ear canal and a major fragment that lodged at the base of her neck, just a quarter inch from her spine that was surgically removed last March.

Scott also has undergone surgery to remove bone fragments from her damaged ear canal, has been fitted with a hearing aid and wore a special jaw brace for months when she still couldn't open her mouth to eat.

Almost a year later, Scott, 36, who holds a doctorate from Commenius University in her native Bratislava, Slovakia, calls it "a miracle that I can walk, that I can talk, that I can even smile."

Her survival is a greater miracle than either she or her husband may realize, said Dr. H. Louis Harkey, chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, who was not involved in her treatment but reviewed her CT scans and some notes from her medical file.

The CT images indicated Scott was shot at very close range and, as in Gifford's case, in which the trajectory was high and the gunshot wound bypassed critical structures of the brain that govern speech, the trajectory in Scott's shooting was low and also missed brain regions that govern critical functions.

"The trajectory is what makes it survivable," Harkey said.

Had the bullet reached Scott's spine and her spinal cord, however, "it would be an injury like Christopher Reeve, not only paralyzed in his arms and legs, he couldn't even breathe and had to have a portable ventilator," Harkey said of the late actor who became a quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse.

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