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Columbus Woman Overcomes Gunshot Wound To The Head

The recent shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords brought back memories of the nightmare that happened to one Columbus woman in 2006. Her family believes that her survival is also a miracle.

21 year old Rachel Barezinsky slowly places chips inside the Connect 4 game. She manages to hold the chip with her left hand even though it was severely damaged from the shooting. When she was 17 Barezinsky was shot in the back of her head on the right side and the bullet crossed her brain and lodged in the left frontal lobe.

"My greatest deficit would be my lack of short term memory because that part of the brain was also injured. But I've graduated from speech therapy which focused on teaching me memory strategies to help compensate for that," said Barezinsky.

Five years ago a Worthington man fired shots at Barezinsky and her friends who were in a car near his property. He thought Rachel and her friends were trespassing and is serving 19 years behind bars. For Barezinsky it has been a long road in recovery from learning how to walk and talk again. Rachel first used a wheelchair when she left the hospital. She also had to wear a helmet during her senior year in high school. Doctors had to replace part of the right side of her skull with cranioplasty due to the extensive bullet damage. Chairman and Professor of Neurosurgery at OSU Medical Center Dr. Ennio Chiocca was one of Barezinsky's physicians.

"We can only do so much as physicians and doctors and sometimes there's an element of chance and luck and in this case the bullet crossed from side to side, but interesting enough did not hit any of the critical brain structures. If it had been off one millimeter this may have turned out to be a much worse event, explained Chiocca.

National statistics show that only 5 percent of people who sustain such gunshot wounds survive.

Barezinsky' father Greg says a nurse at the hospital called Rachel a miracle.

"And she said you've got to understand Greg, Rachel's a miracle and we don't see miracles like this all the time and we need to see this," said Barezinsky.

He says the recent shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who also has shown signs of recovery, brought back many unpleasant memories of the day his daughter was shot.

"I know what they're going through, it's devastating. You don't know the future and the doctors can't tell you the future. Every brain injury is different and when it's a gunshot wound they just don't know," said Barezinsky.

Barezinsky wants her story to be an inspiration to Giffords.

"I thought wow, I need to reach out and help her and her family like so many reached out to me and my family when I was first injured," explained Barezinsky.

Volunteers redesigned the first floor powder room in her father and stepmother's home into a full bathroom that is wheel-chair accessible. And the dining room was converted into Rachel's bedroom. Rachel's mother also moved into a one story house to make it easier for her daughter to maneuver.

Since last October, Rachel works as a clerk four days a week at a dentist's office. She also volunteers on Friday at her alma mater Thomas Worthington High School where she graduated with her class in 2007. "I like the fact that it allows me to be independent there. Because for the longest time especially when I was first injured I had an aide," said Barezinsky. She hopes one day to make more of her dreams come true.

"After high school I always wanted to go to college to become a teacher an elementary school teacher and I always wanted to have a family of my own one day. I still would like to have a family of my own one day and I would like to go to college," added Barezinsky.

Rachel says she is interested in becoming a motivational speaker.

As she exercises on her treadmill, Rachel Barezinsky will keep working toward making her dreams reality, one step at a time.