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Colorado shooting survivors overwhelmed by mounting medical bills

By Catherine Olian
Rock Center

Petra Anderson, one the victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, is recovering far better than her family or her doctors could have hoped for.  The 22-year-old, who was studying music and composition, was hit by a shotgun blast. One of the pellets went in through her nose, right through the middle of her brain and all the way to the back of her skull, says Dr. Michael Rauzzino, a neurosurgeon at the Medical Center of Aurora who is treating Petra Anderson.

Miraculously, says Dr. Rauzzino, the pellet missed all the major blood vessels in Petra’s brain.

“Never in my entire career have I seen a case where a bullet’s traversed the entire brain like this and not caused severe damage or death,” Rauzzino said.  

Petra is already walking and talking, her family says, and Dr. Rauzzino is hopeful that “she’s going to make a very good recovery from this.”

While Petra’s prognosis is good, recovery from a brain injury can take months or even years of rehabilitation and that’s expensive. The Andersons have some insurance, Petra’s sister Chloe told us, but they’re worried it won’t be enough to cover the mounting medical bills.

“The bills that will come in will be crippling,” Chloe Anderson said.  In Colorado, nearly one out of every three people are either uninsured or under-insured, according to The Colorado Trust, a health care advocacy group.

To raise money, Chloe and a friend of Petra’s set up a website and created a video to reach out to strangers for help, both for their family and for other victims of the shooting.

“I wanted to do something to help my sister and potentially help other people who are affected by this”, Chloe Anderson said.

Even before the shooting, the Anderson family was scrambling to pay medical expenses for Petra’s mother, Kim, who is suffering from advanced breast cancer and whose only hope is experimental treatment.

“It’s not covered because it’s in clinical trials still”, says Chloe Anderson. As sick as Kim is, she has been working two jobs so that she and her children can have medical insurance.

Caleb Medley, a 23-year-old aspiring stand-up comic who was critically injured in the attack, has no insurance at all, according to his brother.  He was watching the movie with his wife, Katie, who was 9 months pregnant, when a bullet  ripped through his face and into his brain. He’s in the hospital, fighting for his life.  

Dr. Comilla Sasson  works at the University of Colorado Hospital and treated Caleb Medley and 22 other victims the night of the shooting. She says the seriously injured could be facing healthcare costs of “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars.”  

Caleb’s family had one piece of good news; Caleb’s wife Katie gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Hugo, in the same hospital where Caleb is being treated. His friends also set up a website to raise money. So did friends of Farrah Soudani, 22, who was also shot and is uninsured.

Some of the hospitals in Aurora say they’ll help the victims with their medical expenses. As for the Anderson family, they are grateful for all the support they’ve received from strangers through their website; they’ve already received pledges of more than $200,000 dollars.

“We’ve heard from people in China, we’ve heard from people in South America,” says Chloe. “It’s incredible.”   

To see how you can help the Aurora victims check out the sites below:

Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance

Giving First