A random robbery in 2007 nearly took the life of a Michigan college student who was shot in the stomach and had to fight for survival.
It was a painful road, but one that forced Kevin Morton Jr. to rethink his purpose — and seek inspiration in the healing hands that made him whole again.
Morton, 31, found his calling to become a surgeon thanks to Dr. Dharti Sheth-Zelmanski, who was in the trauma unit at Detroit’s St. John Hospital nine years ago.
The veteran doctor was there for Morton again when the 31-year-old graduated last week from Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The path he is now on, the newly minted doctor said, is a mission to help others — just like he was.
"The compassion and drive that Dr. Sheth has shown in trying to save my life ... I just wanna pay that forward," Morton told NBC News.
But rewind to when Morton was 22, studying at Oakland University in Rochester and working nights at a Detroit Arby's. He had just closed up the restaurant when a man stepped out of the shadows as Morton was getting into his car.
The would-be robber fired at him, and a bullet pierced Morton's abdomen. He had a 10 percent chance of surviving through the night, doctors said.
Sheth-Zelmanski got a call for a Code 1 trauma patient that night. Doctors prepared Morton's family for the worst.
"Whether we call it intuition, experience or a miracle ... we put some extra sutures in and the bleeding stopped," Sheth-Zelmanski recalled.
Morton's life was saved. He had plans to graduate from school and go into the pharmaceuticals industry, but that all changed when doctors at St. John Hospital gave him another chance. He spent 50 days recovering there.
Now, he will be starting a residency as a doctor at that very same hospital.
Looking back, Sheth-Zelmanski is amazed at how far her patient-turned-protégé has come. He has a wife, a daughter, and a job where he can give others hope because of the miracles of medicine.
"We knew he wasn't going to give up," Sheth-Zelmanski said. "We weren't gonna give up — so we had to make it happen."