SEATTLE (AP) – An 8-year-old girl nearly died when a classmate accidentally discharged a gun he brought to school, her doctor said Tuesday, describing the trajectory of a bullet that narrowly missed the child’s vital organs but tore a liver and a major vein.
The bullet shattered Amina Kocer-Bowman’s elbow, tore through her torso and lodged near her spine, said Dr. Eileen Bulger, her surgeon at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. The girl lost 30 units of blood, or her entire blood volume, she added.
“There were a couple of times, especially during the first operation, where we thought we might lose her on the table,” Bulger said Tuesday. “She came very close to death with this injury she had.”
Police say Amina’s classmate, a 9-year-old boy, took a gun he found at his mother’s home and brought it to their elementary school in Bremerton, where it accidentally discharged when he slammed his backpack on a desk on Feb. 22. He struck a plea deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to probation and counseling, and ordered to write a letter of apology to Amina and testify against his mother.
The boy’s mother, Jamie Lee Chaffin, and her boyfriend, Douglas L. Bauer, were charged Tuesday with third-degree assault, a felony.
Amina has undergone five surgeries that took a total of 15 hours, and lost her gallbladder, part of her small intestine and a large vein that moves blood up from her legs. Bulger said the girl doesn’t have a working small intestine, and will have to use a feeding tube in her abdomen for weeks or months.
“This is a dangerous area because there’s a lot of important real estate,” Bulger said. “It’s been a rocky time for her.”
Despite the extent of her injuries, her condition was upgraded to serious condition, her father, John Bowman, said, adding that she is no longer using a ventilator to breathe. Bulger said that she is able to talk when she is awake.
Recovery for Amina will take time, given that Amina’s injuries were “about as serious as it gets,” her doctors said.
In several places, the bullet narrowly missed internal organs that would have instantly ended her life or caused paralysis. The bullet’s location near her spine has not affected her ability to move, and doctors have patched together her elbow with a large metal plate.
Bulger said children are more resilient than adults, citing as an example the ability of Amina’s body to cope after her massive blood loss. Surgeons had to permanently tie off the vein, but eventually, her body will build a new vein structure to reroute the blood, reducing the swelling in her legs, Bulger said.
Bulger said infection remains a concern, since her small intestine is still leaking in one spot.
But if her recovery goes well, she said, Amina could soon leave the intensive care unit, where she slept Tuesday surrounded by stuffed animals sent by friends, family and well-wishers.
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