The doctors believed Abigail Kopf was brain dead: the 14-year-old had been shot in the head from close range. But as they prepared to harvest her organs, her mother felt a jolt. Abigail was squeezing her hand.
Now, just six weeks after Jason Dalton allegedly killed six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan — and opened fire in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, striking Abigail as she sat in a car — this determined teenager has made a dramatic recovery, and gone from victim to survivor.
“Every time I see a cemetery or just a funeral home, all I can do is think to myself — I hate to be selfish — but I'm so glad she's not there,” her mother, Vicki Kopf, told NBC News. “I'm glad she's got the willpower to hold on how she did and fight like she did."
The bullet struck Abigail in the frontal lobe — a region of the brain that controls everything from motor function and memory to emotion and language. By Mid-March, she’d whispered her first words. She’d also had nightmares about a man with a gun.
Soon, though, she was gaining more control of her voice. One day, Vicki Kopf recalled, she confidently started saying “hi” to everyone.
“There was one nurse that she said it to and the nurse told her, ‘You don't have to be so loud,’" Kopf said.
A week after leaving the hospital, Abigail ditched her wheelchair and started walking with the help of a physical therapist. She’s still on a feeding tube at night, but during the day her soft-food diet — pancakes, French toast — almost resembles that of a typical suburban teenager.
She’s still struggling with her memory, though. During a trip to a restaurant, she forgot that one of her most loathed foods was macaroni and cheese.
“She ordered it and then wouldn't eat it,” Kopf said.
Part of Kopf's skull still needs to be reconstructed, and her parents are certain she’ll need life-long care. Unsure if she’ll ever be able to work, they set up a GoFundMe page — and they're creating a Facebook page where the many well-wishing stranger who have sent Abigail letters and books will find updates on her recovery.
"I can't say she'll be back to 100 percent,” Kopf said, “but she's definitely got the 14-year-old stubbornness.”
Kopf added: “I think if she keeps that going and the way she is right now, she'll be fine."