Lauri Quimby was told her son wouldn't survive.
Charlie, 19, was shot in the right temple with a pellet gun by a friend, said police in Skowhegan, a town of about 8,000 about an hour from Bangor, Maine.
Doctors deemed a surgery to remove a metal fragment from Charlie's skull too dangerous.
"When I asked if if he'd make it," she said, "they both shook their heads no."
A local priest read Charlie his last rites.
But then his condition suddenly improved.
"It was just a massive change all of a sudden," Lauri said. "He started getting better."
Most incidents involving pellet or BB guns aren't fatal, but a 15-year-old in California died last year after he was shot in the chest while playing with a BB gun with a friend.
On Monday, about a day after he was shot, Charlie was back to breathing on his own. And his mom could breathe a big sigh of relief.
"It was like a relief he's breathing on his own -- it's awesome," she said. "He's a fighter. He's a strong kid."