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'I'm grateful to be here': Florida shooting survivor thanks people who saved her life

Maddy Wilford suffered multiple gunshots to the chest and abdomen, and had lost a lot of blood when emergency responders reached her.

Maddie Source: Sky News

Updated at 4.15pm

A TEENAGER WHO suffered serious injuries during the Florida shooting said that she was “grateful to be here” and that her and her fellow students had “pulled together” following the tragedy.

On Valentine’s Day, a shooter opened fire on the Florida high school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 people and injuring others.

Maddy Wilford was one of those shot – she suffered serious injuries to her chest and abdomen, her doctors said, adding that Maddy had recovered due to the hospital’s experience dealing with serious shooting incidents “every other day”.

Her parents said that they were grateful to the police who “pulled her out of that school” and to the medics and doctors who saved her life, as well as those that had sent the family well-wishes.

“It’s hard to feel anything but gratitude and thanks that she’s here,” her father said.

“It’s really quite an experience and really quite a miracle – we’ve a lot of sympathy for her classmates and parents whose children were injured and children who didn’t make it.”

Speaking at a press conference today, paramedics said that when they first saw Maddy, they had assumed she was already dead.

She had lost a “massive” amount of blood due to severe chest wounds and her ribs had been shattered.

Paramedics gave her two chest pumps and asked Maddy what age she was so that they could decide what specialist hospital would be best placed to treat her. She eventually said that she was 17-year-old and a chest seal was placed on her, two occurrences which are thought to have saved her life.

Maddy W Maddy Wilford gave a short statement today, as her classmates returned to school. Source: Sky News

Doctors of Broward Health North said that Maddy was pale, wasn’t responsive and was in shock when she arrived. She needed chest reconstruction and three surgeries, but has recovered and was dismissed from the hospital “in less than seven days”.

Her doctors said that the reason her recovery was so successful was because of the experience doctors have gained in treating people with serious gunshot wounds.

We see these type of injuries almost every other day… because of our experience we did an outstanding job… we’re here to celebrate a successful recovery.

School reopens

Students and teachers have returned to a Florida school for the first time since 17 people were shot dead there, consoling each other even as they called for swift action to address gun violence.

“Imagine [being] in a plane crash and then having to get on the same plane every day and fly somewhere else – it’s never going to be the same,” David Hogg, a survivor of the 14 February shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, told ABC television’s This Week.

The school held a voluntary “orientation” yesterday, with teachers and staff due back starting today and classes resuming on Wednesday – a prospect described as “daunting” and “scary”, but which is also a step for survivors to move forward after the attack.

One teacher who had already been back told NPR radio that the shock of returning to a classroom left exactly as it had been during the carnage – notebooks still on desks, the calendar still set to 14 February – made her so physically ill she had to leave.

But Cameron Kasky, a student who survived the slaughter, tweeted a picture of people on campus, saying: “It is GOOD TO BE HOME.”

“I have all my friends here with me and it just makes me feel like I’m not alone in this situation,” student Michelle Dittmeier, who attended the orientation, told ABC.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School also received support from alumni, with previous graduating classes making banners to decorate the school, WSVN TV news reported.

School Shooting-Florida Students and teachers return to the school for the first time since the shooting Source: David Santiago via AP

In nearby Fort Lauderdale last night, religious leaders gathered for an interfaith vigil that left 17 chairs empty in memory of the victims, WSVN reported, after protesters gathered outside the Kalashnikov USA gun manufacturer in neighbouring Pompano Beach.

“Gun reform now!” said one of the protesters’ signs, while another called for the “death factory” to be shut.

With ardent demands by students like Hogg for action, President Donald Trump has said he is open to raising the minimum age for gun purchases and to banning so-called bump stocks, which can effectively convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic firearms, but which were not used in the Parkland killings.

Speaking at the Governors’ Ball ahead of meetings with the top officials from all 50 states today, Trump said school safety is a top priority: “I think we’ll make that first on our list.”

‘Red flag’ law

A new CNN poll, conducted a week after the Florida shooting, shows surging public support for stricter gun laws – surpassing levels seen even after other horrific shootings in recent years – and for a ban on powerful semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 used in Parkland.

Overall, 70% of those surveyed said they supported stricter gun laws, up from 52% in October, and 57% favoured a ban on semi-automatic arms, an increase from 49%.

The United States has more than 30,000 gun-related deaths annually.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has laid out a plan to station a police officer at every public school in the state, raise the legal age for gun purchases from 18 to 21 and pass a “red flag” law for authorities to more easily remove guns from the mentally ill or people with violent histories.

The age change and “red flag” law are staunchly opposed by the influential National Rifle Association, of which Scott is a member.

Scott, who holds the NRA’s highest rating of A+, noted on Fox News Sunday that “there will be some that disagree. But… I want my state to be safe”.

Dana Loesch, an NRA spokeswoman, told ABC that her organisation opposed most of the proposed gun measures.

Instead, she placed blame on politicians, for their inaction, and on law enforcement – specifically the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which she said had ample warning of the violent tendencies of Nikolas Cruz, aged 19, who is charged in the killings.

She accused the sheriff’s office of “abdication of duty” for not arresting Cruz sooner.

Florida School Shooting Students lay flowers and cards in memory of the victims of the shooting Source: David Santiago via AP

‘A terrible idea’

In an often-contentious interview on CNN, Sheriff Scott Israel strongly defended his officers’ work.

Of the 23 calls to his department about Cruz’s erratic or threatening behaviour, nearly all were minor and had been handled appropriately, and a few others were being investigated, he said.

Trump has also proposed arming some teachers, a step many educators passionately oppose.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told C-Span in an interview that “it’s a terrible idea, period, full stop”.

Children, parents and teachers, she said, “want schools to be safe sanctuaries for teaching and learning, not armed fortresses”.

Delaney Tarr, another young survivor of the Florida shooting, said she was girding herself as best she could to return to school.

“It’s daunting… [and] scary because I don’t know if I’m going to be safe there,” she told Fox.

“But I know that I have to.”

© AFP 2018, first published at 8am. With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

Read: Companies distance themselves from the NRA after latest school shooting

More: Woman sent tip to FBI last month that Florida shooting suspect ‘is going to explode’

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