Kristene Chapa, 19, has been making what has been described as a "miraculous" recovery in the year after she and her girlfriend were both shot in the head in a south Texas park, NBC News reports.
Chapa's girlfriend, Molly Judith Olgin, didn't make it. She was pronounced dead at Violet Andrews Park. A man had forced Chapa and Olgin down an incline in the park, bound them, and shot them. The shooting remains unsolved.
Chapa underwent emergency surgery in the aftermath of the attack and was told that Molly didn't survive only as she was getting ready to leave for a rehab centre in Austin.
“Everything stopped. I went blank. I couldn't think . . . and then I just started crying,” Chapa told NBC.
Chapa has spent many months relearning basic functions like sitting, standing, walking, balancing, smiling and speaking without a stutter, the NBC report says. "I went from being independent to back to a toddler." She went from using a recliner to a wheelchair and then a cane as she took her first steps in Austin, where she spent nearly four months in rehabilitation. While she can walk, she has a limp.
She also told NBC she had to "work through my headaches, too, because when I work really hard . . . I get really bad headaches.”
Chapa has confounded expectations with the strength of her recovery.
NBC quotes Dr Osbert Blow as saying he doesn't "believe anyone would expect her to regain complete function, but it is miraculous the amount of function that she has regained considering the amount of destruction to her motor cortex. She has done an exceptional job in terms of her recovery."
“I feel like I proved a lot of people wrong . . . the doctors who didn't think I was going to make it and the guy who tried to kill me,” Chapa says in the report.
Earlier this month, Chapa told NBC News, "I want them to hurry up and find the person because . . . there are still times where I find myself scared, wondering if they're going to come after me. I'm always looking around, seeing if I recognize anyone. There's still a part of me that's scared.”
Police have a suspect, who is in jail in another state, on their radar but haven't moved to arrest him. Investigators, who don't think the suspect knew the couple, also don't believe the attack was a hate crime, but they still haven't come up with a motive, the report says.
As Chapa confronts the challenges of her physical recovery, she is also struggling with losing Molly. “Every day I think about her. I pray for her, just for her to watch over me.”
She has also reached out to others who have experienced their own tragedies, including the family of a girl who died in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting.
She added, “I just want to get better. I just tell myself it's forward from here on out, there's no going back . . . I've come a long way and I know I won't be 100 percent again, but I'll be pretty close to it.”
Her parents have tapped their savings to pay for her care since their insurance doesn't cover everything, including the brace Chapa wears on her left leg.
Her family has set up a fund to help with the ongoing expenses.