Life was fading fast for teenager Maddy Wilford, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds to her body during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14.
When first responders first assessed Maddy, they thought she was dead.
It was a race against time to get her to a hospital before it was too late. Riding in the ambulance, first responder Lieutenant Laz Ojeda, with the Coral Springs Fire Department, had been ordered to transport Maddy to Broward Health Medical Center.
The hospital had a specialized children’s care facility, and since Maddy was believed to be 15 years old, it seemed the appropriate place to take her.
But the hospital was 30 miles away, and Ojeda had a gut feeling that Maddy wouldn’t last that long.
He also had a gut feeling that Maddy wasn’t 15. If she were old enough, Maddy could be treated at Broward Health North Medical Center, which was only 10 miles away.
“I looked at her, I gave her a sternal rub, and I said, ‘Hey, how old are you?'” an emotional Ojeda recalled at a press conference on Feb. 26, almost two weeks after the shooting. But Maddy was unresponsive, and Ojeda asked her again.
Scarcely able to talk, Maddy whispered the two words that probably saved her life. “I’m 17,” she managed.
Her information was precisely what Ojeda had hoped to hear. “We’re going to Broward North!” he yelled, redirecting his team to the closer hospital.
Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, who treated Maddy at the hospital, believes Ojeda’s split-second decision saved Maddy’s life.
Her recovery has been nothing short of miraculous — Maddy endured three surgeries in 40 hours, and left the hospital in less than seven days.
“Young people have a tendency to heal very fast,” Nichiporenko said, in awe of her miraculous recovery.
Through tears, Maddy spoke words of gratitude for her life, and the lives of everyone who helped her on that traumatic day.
“I’d just like to say that I’m so grateful to be here, and it wouldn’t be possible without those officers and first responders and these amazing doctors,” she said.
Seated by her side, Maddy’s father David Wilford planted a kiss on his daughter’s head. “I’m very grateful to be sitting here next to my daughter, alive and well today,” he said, wiping away tears.
Ojeda was moved to tears during the press conference, and believes God placed him in Maddy’s path that day. “I thank God for allowing us to be an instrument in this miracle,” he told CNN.
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