This is Petra Anderson. She’s a 22-year-old Colorado native, violinist and recent graduate of the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music. She was with two friends at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora when a gunman threw tear gas into the crowd and opened fire. She was hit by four shotgun pellets — three to the arm and one to the nose, which then traveled to her brain. This is the story of how she survived the shooting and surgery, as told by her pastor Brad Strait.
Petra is moved back to ICU. She looks, surprisingly, wonderful. With a small hole in her nose, and her arm wrapped, she almost looks uninjured … Finally, one of the surgeons comes in to check on Petra … As Petra sleeps, he retells the story of the surgery, and we ask questions.
It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear. Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.
But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself. Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed.
While we’re talking, Petra awakes. She opens her eyes, and sits up, “Mom.”
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