DETROIT — Alexis Goggins climbed aboard a special tricycle and maneuvered through hospital hallways, beginning the months of physical therapy she needs to recover from six gunshot wounds. To many people, the soft-spoken 7-year-old is a hero after she threw herself across her mother just as a gunman was about to shoot the woman in an SUV.
"An angel is what I call her," Seliethia Parker said of her daughter.
After more than two months in the hospital and six surgeries, Alexis was recently released. She returns twice a week for physical therapy.
The young girl bears several scars from the Dec. 2 shooting, including a long, thin surgical line stretching from one side of her hairline to the other. Her right eye, which was blinded in the attack, has also been removed.
During rehabilitation, she rides a tricycle designed to be pedaled with a person's hands and plays hand-eye coordination games.
"I'll be good for therapy," Alexis promised her mother before bounding back to the games.
Alexis speaks little about the shooting.
"She remembers bits and pieces, but she's not really talking about it much. It's like she's blocking it out or something," said Parker, 30.
'Don't hurt my mother'
The mother and daughter were getting a ride from a friend when Parker's former boyfriend emerged from the shadows outside Parker's house and jumped into the vehicle. He then forced the friend to drive at gunpoint for several minutes.
Under the pretense of needing fuel, Parker's friend stopped at a Detroit gas station to call 911.
Inside the SUV, Parker pleaded with the gunman not to shoot. As he was about to open fire, Alexis cried, "Don't hurt my mother!" and jumped into her mother's arms from the back seat.
Despite her daughter's efforts, Parker was shot twice.
Alexis is learning-disabled and lags behind other youngsters her age. As a result, police say, it may never be known whether Alexis meant to shield her mother from the bullets. But Parker has said that if her daughter had not put herself in between she might have been killed.
Calvin Tillie, a 29-year-old former convict on parole, is charged with two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, along with other offenses. Parker said she met Tillie last year but called off the relationship after three months.
The Associated Press left messages with his court-appointed attorney, Kim Basen Michon.
An outpouring of support
Since the attack, Alexis and her family have received more than 200 letters from well-wishers, some from as far away as London. Supporters have also contributed $30,000 to a fund set up for Alexis through her school.
In addition to the physical therapy, she also meets with a teacher assigned to the hospital until she's ready to return to school. And in the coming weeks, she will be fitted with an artificial eye.
Parker says her daughter is a living miracle.
"I'm thanking God every day that me and my baby are still here," she said. "It has taught me to ... appreciate the smaller things in life."
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