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DES MOINES, Iowa – Kemery Ortega is back home with her family nearly three weeks after she was shot in the head outside East High School.

“I’ve been waiting for it the longest time,” Ortega said. “I completely forgot about how it felt to be back at home and it feels nice.” 

Doctors didn’t know if she would survive the shooting, and they feared lasting damage if she did. Ortega is proving them wrong and finally has a happy memory to add to so many painful ones.

“I remember everything,” Ortega said. “From the moment I got out of my friend’s car to go into my other friend’s car, and then I saw my friend crouch. And since I saw him crouch I’m like, something’s gonna happen. And I think that’s where I got hit, and that’s where I blacked out.”

The next thing Ortega recalls is the paramedics checking to see if she was alive, then taking her to the hospital where her unlikely recovery began.

In a matter of days, Ortega went from the intensive care unit to rehab at ChildServe in Johnston. Now, she’s finally back in a familiar space, walking and talking, basically the opposite of what she was told.

“I’m glad that the doctor had the wrong thoughts that something was gonna happen. I’m glad that I’m recovering quite well,” Ortega said. “It feels nice to not have anything wrong with me or anything. I may be bald and may have a bullet in my head, but we’re doing great.”

As Ortega adjusts to being back home, she’s thinking of her classmates who went back to school this week.

“I hope they’re all doing good,” Ortega said. “I hope that this doesn’t happen again because it’s just a big, scary thing. I hope it’s just not  anybody’s school or anything that like gets shot up or anything because it’s a big deal.”

A big deal for her would be to join her friends in class, she hopes as soon as next week.

“I’m excited for that. I hope I can graduate,” Ortega said. “I hope that my story inspires people. I really hope that they just keep their head up and that they just stay positive and don’t let things bring them down because bringing people down is not the best thing to do. And I just hope that everybody stays happy.”

A second East High student, 16-year-old Jessica Lopez, who also survived the shooting is still in the hospital. Ortega said earlier this week they got to hang out and eat ice cream together. She says she’s doing well and making improvements too.