A Raleigh mass shooting victim and retired special education teacher who was hospitalized for nearly 100 days is finally home from the hospital.
Lynn Gardner, 60, is the last surviving victim to be released from the hospital following the Oct. 13 mass shooting in Raleigh, North Carolina, that left five people dead.
Gardner’s long and arduous road to recovery took a significant step forward on Jan. 18.
“Lynn is a walking miracle,” her friend Mary Kurth said.
Gardner was visiting a friend the day the gunman, Austin Thompson, 15, came into the Hedingham neighborhood in Raleigh and opened fire.
WTVD-TV reports Thompson first shot his brother, James Thompson, 16, inside their home then went outside and shot two women, Nicole Connors, 52, and Gardner in the street. He then shot an off-duty police officer, Gabriel Torres, 29, on his way to work. Thompson continued his rampage by shooting two more women: Mary Marshall, 34 and Susan Karnatz, 49.
Gardner was talking to Connors when she was shot, according to the Associated Press.
Raleigh police were dispatched to the neighborhood and tracked Thompson down with a K-9 before a shootout ensued between the teen and officers. Officers shot a cornered Thompson in the head. The gunman was hospitalized and later placed in a juvenile detention facility where his recovery continued.
“Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has said she will pursue adult charges against Thompson should he recover enough to stand trial,” WRAL reported.
Thompson was arrested and charged with murder for the five deceased people. “He was hospitalized and in critical condition following his arrest, but authorities have not said how he was injured,” according to the Associated Press. Police did not immediately indicate a motive.
Since the tragic shooting, Kurth has documented Gardner’s recovery on a GoFundMe page set up to help with medical costs.
Gardner’s injuries shuttered her ability to breathe on her own due to swelling in her throat. She had to undergo three months of surgeries where her spleen was removed, and her jaw was wired shut. She relied on a breathing tube and experienced regular pain stemming from abdominal injuries caused by the gunshots.
“She is looking at me. She knows I’m here. She knows I’m in the room. She knows I’m not going anywhere, so she’s responding,” Gardner’s niece, Tasha Moore told WRAL-TV.
“She was complaining of significant pain in her left side,” Kurth said. “Three bullet fragments were surgically removed,” she added, noting her friend felt immediate relief afterward.
“Hallelujah, I’m not in pain now!” Gardner said.
After spending many weeks in the ICU, by November she regained her ability to walk and talk. She was also reunited with her dog “Baebee” while in the hospital, which lifted her spirits.
Gardner spent most of her final weeks in rehab building her strength before she was discharged from the hospital.
“She’s going to make it,” Moore said.
Moore traveled to Raleigh to be by her aunt’s side after learning her aunt was a gunshot victim. She admitted in the days following the shooting, she was worried but remained cautiously optimistic for her aunt.
“I’m just gonna keep the faith, continue to pray and tell you what my aunt would say – this too shall pass,” Moore said.
At least for now, Gardner’s focus is not on the gunman who changed her life. She is concentrating her energy on her physical and occupational therapy from the comfort of her home.
“I know God has awesome plans for her, and I can’t wait to see what she will do,” Kurth said.
Gardner’s GoFundMe page has exceeded its goal of $50,000 as donations are just shy of $55,000.