The 14-year-old victim of a Michigan mass shooting whose recovery this spring stunned family, doctors and the nation now faces another medical maelstrom.
Doctors rebuilt the skull of Abigal Kopf with a metal plate after a gunman blew it off in what police said was a five-hour shooting spree in Kalamazoo on February 20. Now an infection has affected the plate, which means the surgery will have to be redone.
“The infection is bad enough that the plate will be removed,” the family wrote on the Facebook page it maintains to inform Abbie’s supporters of her progress. “She will be without a plate 6-12 weeks before it is replaced again. We are back to square one.”
For Abbie and her family, it is a major setback, but she has faced higher hurdles.
Abbie wasn’t expected to wake up after she was hospitalized with no heartbeat after being shot in a Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot, a shooting that killed four women.
Doctors were able to restart Abbie’s heart but her prospects were so dim her family kept her on life support the first weekend so her organs could be donated.
As her mother, Vickie Kopf, sat in the hospital room, caressing her daughter’s hand, Abbie suddenly squeezed hers, a moment Vickie described as “breathtaking … a miracle on its own.”
Abbie walked out of the hospital in April to head home to work on her recovery.
Now, while gearing up for a second surgical round, the family fears Abbie faces another emotional toll on top of having her skull open for three months. They had to make the decision to put down her pet pig, Hamlet, with whom the teen is tightly bonded, because “his old, bad legs in the front are no longer working and causing intense pain.”
“This is extremely stressful,” the family posted on Facebook. “When it rains, it pours.”
Accused killer blames shootings on Uber app
Authorities said Jason Brian Dalton, in between picking up fares as an Uber driver, fired first from one vehicle then, after going home and switching cars, opened fire from another.
The first victim — and the only other person, besides Abigail, who survived the shootings — was Tiana Carruthers, who was shot at a playground in front of her children.
Police said Dalton then killed Richard Smith, 53, and his son Tyler, 17, at a car dealership.
The final stop came outside the Cracker Barrel, police said. Four good friends died then — Dorothy Brown, 74; Barbara Hawthorne, 68; Mary Lou Nye, 62; and Mary Jo Nye, 60 — having gone to the chain restaurant to pick up their cars after attending a performance at a local university.
Abigail wasn’t related to any of them, but was particularly close to Hawthorne, who would introduce the seventh-grader as her “adopted niece.” Bullets struck the girl as she sat in the passenger seat of a car in the parking lot.
Dalton, 45, told investigators the Uber app made him “like a puppet” and that it would “take over your whole body.”
He underwent a psychiatric evaluation. On April 22, Kalamazoo County 8th District Court Judge Tiffany Ankley ruled him competent to stand trial on six counts of murder.