'I'm so grateful to be here,' Parkland school shooting survivor says

Maddy Wilford shot multiple times at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor, Ian Margol - Reporter

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. - A Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student who underwent several surgeries after being wounded in a mass shooting at the Parkland school is sharing her story of survival.

Maddy Wilford, her parents, one of the paramedics who transported her to the hospital and doctors spoke to the media Monday morning at Broward Health North.

Wilford was one of more than a dozen people injured when former student Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 to open fire in the school Feb. 14.

The junior survived, but 14 of her classmates and three teachers were killed in the shooting.

Wilford spoke briefly at the news conference, saying that she was grateful to be alive and encouraged by all the positive messages of support she's seen about her school since the shooting.

"I'd just like to say that I'm so grateful to be here," Wilford said. "It wouldn't have been possible without those officers, and the first responders and these amazing doctors." 

Wilford said she was grateful for the outpouring of support she's received since the shooting, and the people who have sent her letters. 

"It's times like these when I know we have to stick together, and I've seen a lot of positive posts about what's been going on at the school," she said. "I just love the fact that we're sticking together."

Lt. Laz Ojeda, of Coral Springs Fire Rescue, was in the ambulance when Wilford was taken to the hospital. He said he was originally told to bring Wilford to Broward Health Medical Center, but when he saw her injuries and learned she was old enough, he made the decision to take her to Broward Health North, which is significantly closer.

"I looked at her, gave her a sternum rub and said, 'Hey, how old are you?' No response. Second sternum rub -- 'Hey, how old are you?' She came around. She told me she was 17, so at that point I looked at Will and said, 'Will! We're going to North Broward,'" Ojeda said. 

Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, a trauma surgeon at Broward Health North, said Wilford was one of three pediatric patients who were taken to Broward Health North with multiple gunshot wounds.

He said Wilford was pale, in shock and unresponsive when she was taken to the hospital and was suffering from gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen and arm.

Nichiporenko said Wilford's wounds to the chest were very severe and she was suffering from massive bleeding. 

Wilford said she is grateful that she will make a full recovery.

Her parents also spoke at the news conference, expressing their gratitude to those credited with saving their daughter's life and for the outpouring of support from the community.

Wilford's parents also expressed their sympathy for the families who lost a loved one in the shooting or whose children are still recovering. 

"For those of the moms who I have not been able to visit that their children passed, I love you (and) I'm here for you," Wilford's mother said. "Those who are left in the hospital, I will come and visit with you. We have had so many visitors. I just have to say it helped her mentality, it helped her heal."

Wilford's mother said her daughter is an inspiration to her for her determination to keep on going in life.

"She knows who she is and she knows where she wants to go and what she wants in life, and that strength and power is what helps you heal," Wilford's mother said. "It makes you want to get up. It makes you want to keep going." 

Just a few days ago, President Donald Trump's campaign sent out an email with a photo attached, showing him and First Lady Melania Trump visiting Wilford in the hospital.

The email said in part, "The president has made his intent very clear, making our schools and our children safer will be their top priority."

At the bottom of the email was a link to donate to his campaign.

Wilford and her family didn't take any questions at the news conference and didn't comment on the email.

Wilford was released from the hospital Thursday and will continue physical therapy as she heals.

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