Newschannel 3 speaks to the doctors that saved Abbie Kopf's life
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - In a Newschannel 3 exclusive tonight, we hear from the doctors who saved 14-year-old Abbie Kopf's life.
She was rushed to Bronson Methodist Hospital after being shot in the head in the Cracker Barrel parking lot on February 20th.
Newschannel 3's Jessica Harthorn found out what happened in the ICU the night of the Kalamazoo mass shooting, and heard from Abbie about her will to survive.
Abbie's doctors tell us a fortunate series of events made it possible for Abbie to be saved.
Had the manager of Cracker Barrel not come out immediately to investigate after hearing gun shots, had the EMS crew not been a minute and a half from the scene, and had she not been so close to a level one trauma center she may not have survived.
Tonight Abbie shares with us that defining moment she knew everything would be ok.
"Hey baby girl, how are you?" asks Vickie Kopf.
"Your lips are warm. I love you momma," says Abbie Kopf. "I love you," Vickie replies.
14-year-old Abigail Kopf lights up a room.
With her smile, a twinkle in the eye and a great sense of humor.
"What do you remember about Dr. Wiggins?" asks Jessica Harthorn.
"He has a deep voice and another Dr. he's really cute," says Abbie.
It's astonishing to see the progress Abbie has made since the night of February 20th.
Medical Director Dr. Aaron Lane-Davies and Neurosurgeon Dr. Gregory Wiggins remember getting the phone call in the middle of the night, a teen had been shot in the head.
"They were actually performing chest compressions, giving medications, trying to revive her," said Dr. Wiggins.
"Abbie was in this very scary and uncertain place," said Dr. Lane-Davies.
"At that point things looked very, very poor," said Dr. Wiggins.
Abbie's heart had essentially stopped working, and her mother Vickie had already made up her mind to donate her daughter's organs.
"And we were saying our goodbyes at that moment. I put my head on her chest and I told her I loved her. And I told her that my heart and her heart will always be entwined, and I told her that our hearts were one. And if she could feel my heart, that hers should start. And within five minutes it started back up.
Abbie says she remembers seeing her mother's face.
"This is the way I woke up and grabbed her hand," Abbie showed us.
"And by holding your mom's hand, what kind of message where you sending her?" asked Jessica Harthorn.
"I'm not leaving yet. I'm not going to give up," said Abbie.
Abbie was rushed into the operating room.
For two hours Dr. Wiggins tells us he removed bullet fragments from her brain, a majority where lodged in her right frontal lobe.
"If you had to pick a place, this is a pretty good place to get shot," said Dr. Wiggins.
"So she got lucky, so to speak?" asked Jessica Harthorn.
"Very lucky," replied Dr. Wiggins.
A monitor was placed in Abbie's skull to balance the swelling in the brain
And it wasn't until 10 days later she started showing signs she was ready to wake up.
"Interims of wiggling toes and fingers," said Dr. Lane-Davies.
Vickie tells us when the time came to sit her up, she had to leave the room.
"I was panicking, and I kept telling the nurses not to drop her head, and they said, 'We got this mom.'"
Abbie's father, Gene, says during that time he was grateful for the medical team's communication.
"Bronson included us every step of the way. We were considered members of the medical team. It was fabulous."
After 17 days in the ICU, Abbie was ready to be discharged.
"I guess I was a little surprised, but in a pediatric patient they have an amazing capability to recover, absolutely amazing," said Dr. Wiggins.
"Her recovery has been remarkable. She has gotten function and personality back as quickly as I could have hoped for or expected," said Dr. Lane-Davies.
As Abbie was leaving Bronson, she wrote her mother a note, asking "What happened to me?"
"And I said, well sweetheart, you were shot in the head, and she started to cry. And I said but you're alive and that's all that matters right now," said Vickie.
And today, Abbie embodies the joy of being alive like no other.
"High five. Your hands are warm," said Abbie.
We paused our interview to feed her pet pig, Hamlet, some peanut butter and to take a selfie with me and her friends.
But what she really wanted was to take a moment and tell the team at Bronson how she feels.
"Thank you for saving my life. It means a lot to me," said Abbie.
Abbie's next surgery will reconstruct and replace the portion of her missing skull.
That's on May 13th, the same day her parents will celebrate their wedding anniversary.
Her parents also tell us they hope Abbie will be well enough to go back to school in the fall for a half day.