Sitting between her mom, Missy, and dad, David, 17-year-old Maddy Wilford told a room full of media how grateful she was to be alive after a gunman opened fire and shot her three times during the Valentine’s Day shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“I’m so grateful to be here. It wouldn’t be possible without the first responders and the amazing doctors and the love everyone has sent,” she said.
The high school junior sat just feet away from the doctors at Broward Health North Hospital in Deerfield Beach, who performed three surgeries on her within 48 hours, and the Coral Springs Fire Department lieutenant who was part of a team of five who triaged and rushed her to the hospital 11 miles away — an act that may have saved her life.
“I was sitting on my couch thinking of all the letters, love that was passed around. I wouldn’t be here without — I just want to send my love and appreciation,” Maddy said.
Her father agreed.
“I am grateful to be sitting here next to my daughter alive and well today, and there are a lot of people to thank for Maddy’s life, and four are right at the back of this room, these guys from the Coral Springs Police Department and Broward County Sheriff’s for pulling her out of the school and saving her life,” David Wilford said.
Maddy is one of more than a dozen students who were shot and survived the attack by former classmate, Nikolas Cruz. Seventeen other students, teachers and coaches died after police say Cruz opened fire with an AR-15 assault-style weapon, shooting more than a hundred rounds of ammunition in building 12. That building now is closed and is scheduled to be demolished.
Minutes after Maddy was shot, she was treated by Lt. Laz Ojeda, who after finding out her age, made a last-minute split decision to transport the teenager to Broward Health North, which is 20 miles closer than the hospital she originally was supposed to be transported to. It’s a decision that doctors say saved her life.
“When you see somebody in such a decompensated shock state, and you make the determination to take them to the closest trauma center and the doctor says that this saved her life, it validates the thought process of myself and the crew that was on that call,” Ojeda said.
“Maddy came in, she was pale, nonresponsive and in shock,” said Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, Broward Health North Medical director of Trauma Services. “Immediately she had to get a chest tube placement, because her wounds to her chest were very severe with massive bleeding.”
Despite three bullet wounds and three surgeries, Maddy is now out of the hospital and back home with her family. Doctors say besides occupational therapy on her right hand, Maddy physically could be ready to return to school next week. Doctors call it a miracle, but Maddy’s mom says her daughter’s resilience also may have saved her life.
“I can spend an hour talking about my daughter, I’m a little biased. She’s a fighter. She wants to heal, she wants to get better,” said Missy Wilford.
Maddy knows that’s her priority right now, and says she’s doing just that, thanks to support from her family, friends and community.
“Like my mom said, it’s times like these when I know we need to stick together. I’ve seen a lot of positive posts about what’s been going on at the school, and I’m so glad we are sticking together, that I am making a full recovery and everything’s been going so smoothly, and that’s all I have to say,” said Maddy, as her grateful father gently kissed her on the head.