Parkland School Shooting Survivor Maddy Wilford, 17, Fights Tears as She Thanks First Responders

Wilford, who was shot three times, says she loves how her school community is sticking together in the wake of the carnage.

Maddy Wilford was shot three times with bullets that tore through her chest, abdomen and blasted her shoulder. She was convinced she was going to die.

"I'd just like to say that I'm so grateful to be here," the 17-year-old student said at an emotional press conference Monday. 

Wilford, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, is one of the lucky ones.

She was in psychology class on Valentine's Day when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly fired scores of rounds from a legally purchased AR-15 rifle. Fourteen of her fellow students and three adults were killed.

Though paramedics initially thought she was dead, Maddy is now expected to make a full recovery.

Wilford, accompanied by her parents, returned to Broward Health North to thank the medical staff and first responders who saved her life and sewed her back together.

She struggled to speak as she fought back tears. "It's times like these when I know we have to stick together, and I've seen a lot of positive posts about what's been going on at the school," she said. "I just love the fact that we're sticking together."

With her mother, Missy, and her father, David, by her side, Maddy also thanked friends and community members for "all the love that everyone has sent."

"She knows who she is and she knows where she wants to go and what she wants in life, and that strength and power is what helps you heal," Wilford's mother said. "It makes you want to get up. It makes you want to keep going." 

Coral Springs Fire Rescue Lt. Laz Ojeda also wiped away tears at the news briefing, calling the triage after the shooting "controlled chaos."

First responders were going to transport Maddy to a hospital 30 miles away, but changed their minds when Ojeda was able to bring Maddy around. "I looked at her. I gave her a sternal rub and I said, 'Hey, how old are you?'"

A sternal rub is painful procedure in which knuckles are intensely dragged up and down a patient's breast bone.

She was able to tell him she was 17, which meant she was old enough to go to Broward North, which was only 10 minutes away.

At the hospital, Maddy was placed on a ventilator and underwent several surgeries to repair a punctured lung, massive internal bleeding, and a ripped up arm. She was released from the hospital last week, and is currently attending physical therapy.

“This really has been a miracle," her dad said. "And I just have to give a lot of gratitude and thanks. And I have a lot of sympathy for her classmates, and the other parents whose children were injured, and whose children didn’t make it."

Maddy was visited by President Trump and his wife, Melania, in the hospital. A photo of that visit was used over the weekend by Trump's re-election campaign to solicit donations, which prompted criticism on social media. 

"Don't you f---ing dare use a photo of one of my best friends for your benefit," student Morgan Williams wrote on Twitter. "If you truly cared, maybe you would have stayed at the hospital longer than 20 minutes."