He Guessed Shooting Victim Was Older Than 15. It Saved Her

Lt. Laz Ojeda made the call to take Parkland victim not to a children's hospital, but to a closer facility
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2018 12:40 PM CST
Updated Mar 3, 2018 11:04 AM CST
He Guessed Shooting Victim Was Older Than 15. It Saved Her
Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor Maddy Wilford gets a kiss from her father, David Wilford, during a news conference at Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach, Fla., on Monday.   (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP)

Maddy Wilford was shot multiple times in the Parkland school massacre and was near death as first responders tended to her after the shooting. But an observant Coral Springs Fire Department lieutenant asked the teen an important question as they prepared to whisk her away, and it was one that ended up saving her life. Per CNN, Maddy was in such bad shape when she was brought to Lt. Laz Ojeda and his rescue team that they initially thought she'd already died. "Signs of life," however, soon emerged, and after a Broward County Sheriff's Office SWAT team member sealed up a chest wound, they readied her to go to a children's hospital 30 miles away, where they'd been instructed to take the 15-year-old. Except Ojeda wasn't convinced she was only 15. And so, as Ojeda tearfully relayed at a Monday presser, he asked the girl twice how old she was; she finally answered she was 17.

Based on that info, Ojeda, who thought she'd die before they got her to the children's facility, made the call to take her to a hospital just 10 miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. There, operating surgeon Dr. Igor Nichiporenko quickly did "damage control" on the badly injured teen, who'd been shot in the abdomen, chest, and upper sternum, with tendons "shattered from gunshot wounds." Astonishingly, Wilford was out of the hospital in less than a week. "Young people have a tendency to heal very fast," Nichiporenko says, per the New York Times. "She's very, very lucky." He adds that Ojeda's decision saved Maddy's life. Ojeda is just glad he was there to make the call. "I thank God for allowing us to be an instrument in this miracle," he told CNN Tuesday. As for Maddy? "I'm so grateful to be here," she said at the news conference, per CNN. (More Parkland school shooting stories.)

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