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East High School shooting victim leaving hospital, starting rehab

Kemery Ortega said her recovery gives her hope she can live a normal life again soon.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Kemery Ortega, the 18-year-old East High School senior who was shot more than two weeks ago, said she transferred out of MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center and to a rehab facility Tuesday after making tremendous strides in her recovery.

Her mother, Miriam Montiel, told Local 5 the family is thrilled with the progress.

Ortega said her recovery gives her hope she can live a normal life again soon. She said being in this position right now is both a surprise and a blessing.

“Life is short. You only get to live it once,” Ortega told Local 5.

Someone shot her in the head outside of East High School. Two other teens were also hit by the gunfire, including her friend Jose David Lopez, who died.

“If I was maybe in a different position or something and the bullet had not gone in the way it did, I wouldn’t be here today. If it was a few millimeters back, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today,” Ortega said.

Montiel is thankful her daughter is alive and making quick progress.

“We thought that it was going to be long before she started talking to us, walking, and doing something but she’s here,” she said.

This is what their family hoped for after the shooting, something Ortega still remembers.

“When I got hit, my vision was all black and gray. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear people around me. I could hear my friends yelling my name. Minutes later, I could feel the paramedics feeling around my neck to see if I was aware,” Ortega recalled.

She survived that, but recovery was the next hurdle. Step by step she kept getting better. Montiel and Ortega said it even surprised the family and doctors.

“The doctor's surprised because he didn't think I'd make it this far. He thought maybe I'd have some slow speech or something slow going on in my body and he tells me he's surprised by everything he's seen and he even prayed for me too,” Ortega said.

Her focus now is getting better and praying the other families to find peace after this tragedy. She said she has, and she’s letting go of any fear or anger.

“I guess I just have to say like, stay happy and don’t be mad at someone who does something like that,” Ortega said.

She said she’s thankful for her parents who have been by her side the whole time and even shaved their heads to match her.

Another big goal she has right now is to graduate high school and go to trade school.

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