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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An 18-year-old student who was shot in the head in a shooting outside a Des Moines school that killed one teen and injured another is making what her family and doctors say is a remarkable recovery.
Kemery Ortega was rushed into emergency surgery on March 7 after the shooting at East High School, her parents told the Des Moines Register, and doctors warned her family that her prognosis didn't look good.
Thirteen hours after the surgery, she opened her eyes and waved at her mother, Miriam Montiel Téllez.
“It’s truly a miracle," Montiel Téllez said. “That’s what the nurses and doctors call her here, too. Because she is.”
Doctors said Ortega might struggle with speech, memory loss or personality changes due to her injuries. But Montiel Téllez said Ortega is speaking and writing normally, both in Spanish and English, and walking when she has the strength to do so.
Ortega remembers being in a car with her friend, waiting for her father to pick her up from school early, Montiel Téllez said. She also remembers the voice of her friend calling her name and the voices of the paramedics before losing consciousness. Her next memory was of waking up in the hospital, Ortega's mother said.
The shooting happened outside the school, injuring another student — a 16-year-old girl — and killing 15-year-old Jose David Lopez, of Des Moines, who was not a student. Police have said Lopez was the intended target of the shooting. Six teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 17 have each been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the shooting.
It was yet another shooting at a school in the U.S., which has seen heated debate over tighter restrictions on guns, but little in the way of legislation to do so. Asked Wednesday whether the Des Moines school shooting should lead to consideration of stricter gun laws for Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds said that most of the guns used in the shooting were accessed illegally.
Reynolds, a Republican, said the focus should be on why the teenage shooters were not in school.
“I think that’s where we need to focus. Let’s figure out how we get these kids in school, get them the education that they need and set them up to be successful and not set them up for jail or a life of crime," Reynolds said at a press conference.
As for Ortega, she has a lot of recovery ahead of her. She remains in a lot of pain, having been intubated twice, and secretions in her lungs have made it hard for her to swallow, Montiel Téllez said, so she is still being fed through a feeding tube. However, the swelling in her brain is decreasing and she’s improving quickly, Montiel Téllez said.
“Kemery is strong — very, very strong,” said her father, Reyes Ortega.