By Michael Ireland
Twenty-two-year-old Petra Anderson was shot and critically injured during the shooting at The Dark Knight Rises premiere in Aurora, CO, on Friday, July 20, 2012. In addition to the three shotgun pellets that hit her arm, one pellet went through her nose, rode up the back of her cranium, and hit the back of her skull.
Petra is a Colorado native and graduated from the University of Pacific in May 2012, with a bachelor’s degree in music composition. While at UoP, she was named the Conservatory of Music 2011 Presser Scholar. She has been accepted into a graduate program at the University of Maryland School of Music. You can catch glimpses of Petra’s heart and soul by listening to her music here: http://petraandersonmusic.com.
Her pastor, Brad Strait, serves as senior pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Englewood, Colorado, is a Chaplain for several fire and police departments, served 12 years as Chaplain of the House for the Colorado House of Representatives, and teaches Leadership and Spiritual Formation at Denver Seminary.
Strait was at the hospital where Petra underwent delicate surgery to remove the shotgun pellet lodged in her brain.
On his Blog, ‘Celtic Straits’, at http://tinyurl.com/csslwjl, Pastor Strait recalls what happened that night.
“At Columbine, I have seen this before. But not up close,” he wrote.
“In this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22-year-old woman from my church, Petra Anderson (pronounced Pay-tra). Petra went to the movies with two young friends who are biking across America. You and I have been inundated with news about what happened next. A joyful movie turned into bloody, unbelievable chaos.
“Petra was hit four times with a shot-gun blast, three shots into her arm and one bullet which entered her brain. This a bit of Petra’s miracle story.”
“Her injuries were severe, and her condition was critical. A bullet had entered Petra’s face through her nose, and then traveled up through her brain until stopping at the back of her skull. The doctors prior to surgery were concerned because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet. Many areas of brain function were involved. They were hoping to keep her alive long enough to get her into surgery. The prognosis was uncertain. If she lived, Petra might struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage. With Kim, Petra’s mother (who is in the final stages of terminal cancer), we simply cried, hugged, and prayed.”
Petra was finally taken into surgery, using two different surgical teams.
One team of neurosurgeons opened the back of her skull to remove the bullet and clean up brain damage. Another ENT-specialty surgical team worked through Petra’s nose by scope to follow the bullet’s path up into her brain. They removed bone fragments, cleaned up damaged brain tissue, and resealed her brain to reduce infection, Strait noted.
After surgery Petra was moved back to ICU. She looked surprisingly good following the delicate procedure, Strait noted.
One of the surgeons came in to check on Petra and retold the story of the surgery. Incredibly, the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas.
“The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small ‘defect’ in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear. Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.
“But in Petra’s case,” wrote Strait, “the shotgun buckshot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain.
“In the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself. Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed.”
Without the brain defect, Petra would have been gravely injured. As the doctor shared he seemed shocked and surprised himself, Strait noted.
“‘It couldn’t have gone better,” the doctor said. “‘If it were my daughter,’ he says quietly, glancing around to see if any of his colleagues might be watching him, ‘I’d be ecstatic. I’d be dancing a jig.’
“I can’t keep my smile back, or the tears of joy,” Strait wrote. “In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It’s just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before.”
While Strait and the doctor were talking, Petra awakened.
She opened her eyes, sat up and said, “Mom.”
The doctor asked questions, and Petra had the right answers. ‘Where do you hurt, Petra?’ ‘
“All over,” she replied. Amazed, but professional, the doctor smiled and left the room shaking his head.
Petra was groggy and beat up, but seemed like herself, Strait noted.
“I’m thirsty,” she proclaimed.
“You want an ice cube, honey?” her mother asked.
Petra laid back down, and went to sleep — a living miracle who doesn’t even know it yet. Good flowering out of the refuse pile of a truly dark night. “Thank you, Jesus,” Strait whispered.
Last month Petra’s mother Kim discovered that the breast cancer she thought was just a bad memory is back and has spread to her liver, bones, and lungs. “Because of complications, she’s had to decline traditional treatment and pursue promising but expensive alternative medicine,” Strait explained.
The cost for Petra’s surgery is high by itself. On top of Kim’s cancer costs, it looks unscalable, Strait noted. “We believe that the world is full of people ready to believe in good, and we believe that you are one of those people. No one can change that.” — ASSIST News
For more on the Andersons, or to help with their medical costs, please visit www.indiegogo.com/readytobelieve . More information about supporting Petra Anderson and other shooting victims is also available at Hope Rises on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/HopeRisesReliefFund