14-year-old Kalamazoo shooting survivor faces long recovery

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Abigail Kopf was shot February 20 in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
Abigail Kopf was shot February 20 in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

On April 1, Abigail Kopf scooted herself to the edge of the bed and pressed a button that would alarm her nurses immediately.

They ran to her room only to find Abigail grinning ear to ear.

“April Fools!” she said, giggling.

What may seem like a simple prank shows huge progress for the 14-year-old, who was shot in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Authorities said Abigail was shot by Jason Brian Dalton as he went on a five-hour shooting spree February 20 in between picking up fares as an Uber driver.

After being shot, Abigail’s heart stopped. Doctors were able to get it beating again and her condition has steadily improved since then.

Abigail can now talk loudly, chew soft food and walk with assistance. Still, her life may never be the same.

Abigail goes through eight-hour days of rehabilitation and also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that causes her to frequently wake up screaming from nightmares.

“She does wake up thinking he’s going to come back and finish the job,” Abigail’s mother, Vicki Kopf, said.

Eventually, Abigail will need to have a metal plate installed into her skull to replace parts shattered by the bullet, which has thrown off her depth perception.

The Kopf family said they might need to relocate homes to accommodate Abigail, who can no longer walk up the stairs to her room.

If the Kopfs have to move or renovate their home to accommodate Abigail’s needs, they will likely have to part ways with Hamlet, a pet potbelly pig.

“Abbie would be heartbroken if she had to get rid of Hamlet for herself to make room. That would kill her,” Vicki Kopf said.

While getting rid of the pig is not the family’s first choice, it’s the reality at play given unknown expenses to come. Abigail’s father is not working because of his daughter’s rehabilitation needs.

Doctors have told the family to start saving for Abigail’s future now. Despite her positive prognosis, there is no telling what medical expenses will look like down the line.

To help cover her medical expenses, Abigail’s family and friends have created a GoFundMe page.

On Monday, her parents launched new Facebook and Twitter profiles to provide updates about Abigail, raise money for medical expenses, and help the community find closure in the aftermath of the Kalamazoo shootings.

Dalton, 45, is accused of killing six people and injuring two more. Among the dead was Abigail’s honorary Grandma Barbara Hawthorne, and her friends — Dorothy Brown, Mary Lou Nye and Mary Jo Nye. The group had just watched a show at Miller Auditorium, an activity Abigail cherished.

“That was her thing with her grandma,” said Gene Kopf, Abigail’s father.

Abigail is on track to leave her current rehabilitation center in three to five weeks.

“The best thing in the future that’s going to help is her getting home,” said Gene.

CNN’s Elizabeth Tew contributed to this report.

By Lorenza Brascia

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