By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Kylie Ossege walked down the crowded hallway to claps and cheers from nurses and staff as she was discharged from inpatient rehabilitation at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac, Jan. 7.
Kylie, 17, suffered gunshot wounds to the chest during the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High school. The other six hospitalized victims were all released by Dec. 5.
“We are forever grateful to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and their incredible staff for their amazing dedication and care for Kylie,” her mother, Marita Ossege, wrote in an update on her GoFundMe page. “From our friends in the ICU to the rehab team, you all have touched our lives in a manner we will never forget.”
Kylie was initially in critical condition and underwent multiple surgeries before she was moved out of the intensive care unit Dec. 9. Over the next month, physical therapists helped her regain her strength, balance and ability to walk.
On Dec. 30, one month after the shooting, Kylie joined runners and walkers across the country in #4forOxford. Participants were challenged to put in four miles, one for each student who lost their life. Kylie joined on her treadmill, and walked 2,000 feet: 500 feet each for Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre and Justin Shilling. This was astounding progress because her previous record was 150 feet and she celebrated taking just five steps only two weeks before.
Kylie told her physical therapist, “My motivation outweighs my pain,” according to Marita.
“We admire her for her courage and strength,” Marita wrote. “She inspires us daily.”
Kylie will continue her rehabilitation as an outpatient. Her GoFundMe account, set up by several family friends, has raised over $136,000 to help with expenses over the coming months and years of her recovery.
“The goal here is to give them breathing room to do whatever is necessary to support her way back to a somewhat ‘normal’ life,” wrote Teresa Roland, the organizer. “We can’t even imagine what that could look like, but hope the financial support takes one less stress off this traumatic event.”
Kylie is a member of the OHS equestrian and tennis teams, and president of the Oakland County 4-H Horse Council.
Update on other survivors
Although they have all left the hospital, it still may be a long road to recovery for most of them.
Phoebe Arthur, 14, was shot in the left chest and neck. “Thankfully,” according to her cousin Naomi Ernest, “a friend kept Phoebe out of harm’s way, holding her, praying with her, and putting compressions on Phoebe’s wounds to stop the bleeding until paramedics could arrive.” Her wounds required immediate surgery, after which she was put on a ventilator until stable.
“She has a long road ahead but we are just so grateful to have her home,” her mother, Sandy Cunningham, wrote on her GoFundMe page. “We know how blessed we are that our sweet baby will one day recover.”
Phoebe’s recovery is estimated to take six months to a year. Through it all, Cunningham described her daughter as “the strongest, bravest, most epic human. She is a fighter.”
Elijah (Eli) Mueller, 14, was shot in the face. “The bullet grazed his two fingers as it passed between them, went into his open mouth, hit and shattered 3-4 teeth, then out his right cheek below his ear,” according to his GoFundMe organizer, cousin Michelle Carter-Johnston. “This young man at the age of 14 will have to pause his teenage life to go through medical procedures and take time to heal in many ways.”
Eli had surgery to remove five teeth and stitch his cheek, after which he was fitted with partial dentures. Once he’s fully grown, he will go through the process of getting implants.
“Eli and his family continue to be extremely grateful for all the support and prayers,” Carter-Johnston wrote in a Jan. 3 update. “It is a little over a month since the shooting, but the physical healing is just beginning. Please continue with the prayers and love, it is helping.”
Aiden Watson, 15, was shot in his left leg, but still managed to escape the school. His GoFundMe organizer, aunt Barbara Crumback, described it. “As he was trying to run out of the high school with the help of a friend, he called my sister and screamed, ‘Mom I’ve been shot. Help me.’ Thankfully a friend of Aiden’s helped him escape the high school and run down the road. This friend flagged down a stranger who drove him to safety and called 911 before my sister could get to him.”
Aiden began walking unassisted just a couple weeks after the incident. “Right after the doctor gave him the ok to walk without the crutches, he asked to go up to the high school to see the sign and memorial,” Crumback said. “This was the first time he had been there since he ran out of the high school with his gunshot wound. He wanted to write a message to everyone. He wrote ‘Stay Strong Oxford.’ This was really hard for him and his family but they are all just trying to heal.”