Kalamazoo shooting victim leaves rehab

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Abigail Kopf, the 14-year-old victim of a mass shooting in Kalamazoo on Feb. 20, has left physical therapy two months after she was shot in the head, the Kopf family announced via social media on Wednesday.

Six people died in those shootings. Four were family friends of Abigail, including Barbara Hawthorne, a 68-year-old woman Abigail called “Grandma Barb,” who had taken her to a theater show that night.

The announcement went out on a Facebook page chronicling Abigail’s journey back to normalcy. Abigail took physical therapy at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and had been there since early March.

As physical therapist Joe Winegar said in a video detailing Abigail’s work: “She’s made a lot of progress. She’s still weak. She’s weaker on one side. We’re trying to get her where she can go to school and help Mom and Dad at the house.”

In the video, Abigail’s father, Gene, wore a blue tie-dye shirt with “Team Abbie” on the front and “Love is stronger than fear and anger” on the back.

“It was bad luck that it happened,” Gene Kopf said, “but it was good luck that it happened near a trauma center, good luck that it was cold that night, good luck that she was found quickly, good luck the bullet took the precise path it did instead of (going) slightly in any other angle.”

He had high praise for the team at Mary Free Bed for getting his daughter walking and talking so quickly.

“Some of it is sheer dumb luck,” Kopf said. “A lot of it is skill in the medical field.”

Kopf also took the opportunity to stand on his soapbox, as he called it, and use his platform to speak against the gun violence that almost claimed his daughter’s life.

“I don’t want any other families to go through this,” he said. “Something has to be done about the gun violence epidemic. This country has a serious problem with it. So where does it stop?”

Vickie Kopf, Abigail’s mother, also offered high praise for her daughter’s fight at a tough moment, along with the skill of the team at Mary Free Bed.

“She’s amazing, and she’s very stubborn, very willed, and that’s great. But she also had some amazing doctors who were on her side,” Vickie Kopf said in the video. “The community has been great, and it’s been wonderful. The physical therapists here at Mary Free Bed are awesome. They do their job. They focus on the patient.

“Abbie was shot almost 2 months ago and she’s eating, walking and talking and almost running down the halls now. We didn’t even think that was possible, but look at her,” she said.

Abigail’s determination shows through at the end of a set of stands from a sitting position, with no handrails. She comes to the end of her set and asks to do another. It’s wobbly, but she does it.

In brief responses to questions in the video, Abigail says she is excited to see her friends, but also Hamlet, her pet pig, and Basil, her cat.

Abigail cites one physical therapist, Annika, as being her favorite.

“What makes her so special to you?” the man shooting the video asks.

“She has red hair like me.”

Tiana Carruthers, 25, the second survivor in the shooting, was given a gift of $19,200 from her church. Carruthers is still in a wheelchair, but has said she’s making progress toward walking again.

The Kopf family has set up a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising $100,000 toward Abigail’s recovery. More than $7,500 has been raised in the last 16 days.