Brain defect saves woman shot in the head in Colorado massacre

22-year-old Colorado native and violinist Petra Anderson was there on that fateful night a gunman threw tear gas into the crowd and opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

The shooting spree left 12 dead and more than 40 others wounded in the Colorado theater.

Anderson, who was watching the movie with two young friends, was hit by four shotgun pellets - one of which travelled right through her brain through her nose, all the way right up to the back of her skull.

Doctors had a bleak prognosis for her, because the bullet had traversed through so much of her brain, her pastor Brad Strait wrote in his blog.

If she lived, doctors predicted that Anderson would struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage.

It was the second tragedy in the family, with Anderson's mother suffering from the final stages of terminal cancer, and now her daughter lying motionless in an Intensive Care Unit.

When she was wheeled into surgery, doctors stood ready to remove the bullet and clean up brain damage as best they could. They planned to remove bone fragments, clean up damaged brain tissue, and reseal her brain to reduce infection.

However, when they opened up her skull, they got a shock. There was very little damage to the brain, and the bullet came out cleanly.

"It went better than we hoped for," they said.

What happened was that Anderson was born with a small defect in her brain - a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull from front to rear.

Only a CAT scan would have caught it, and Anderson likely never knew about it.

While it didn't affect the life of the recent graduate of the University of the Pacific's Conservatory of Music, here, it saved her life.

The bullet entered her brain from the exact point of this defect, and followed the path of the channel through her brain. In the process, the bullet missed all the vital areas of the brain.

"In many ways, it almost missed the brain itself," Straits wrote. "A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed," he added.

Anderson has since awoken from her ordeal, and other than a small hole in her nose, looks otherwise unharmed, Straits said. On July 22, she took her first steps.

However, there is still much ahead. Anderson faces the possibility of more surgeries, and perhaps facial reconstruction. For her mother Kim, chemo therapy to stretch every moment out of life.

For more on the Andersons, please visit here.

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