Hedingham shooting survivor shares uplifting message during Trauma Survivors event

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Thursday, May 18, 2023
Hedingham shooting survivor shares uplifting message at WakeMed event
Lynn Gardner was one of three survivors to share their stories during an event Thursday morning at WakeMed as part of Trauma Survivors Month.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lynn Gardner was one of three survivors to share their stories during an event Thursday morning at WakeMed as part of Trauma Survivors Month.

"On October 13th, 2022, my life dramatically changed," said Gardner, a survivor of last year's Hedingham mass shooting.

Gardner had just returned home after celebrating her 60th birthday with friend and neighbor Nicole Connors. The pair planned to walk their dogs together that night, and Gardner was waiting outside to meet up when she noticed something.

"I see to my left peripheral seeing someone there wearing black camo pants and thinking of nothing of us. I then hear the noise, bang bang bang. I did hear Nicole say -- 'why are you shooting us?' It had not registered to me that I had been shot," said Gardner.

Five people, including Connors, were killed in the attack, which was the second-deadliest shooting in the state's history. Gardner would spend more than three months at WakeMed recovering from her injuries before she was released from the hospital in January.

"I'm so happy to be able to share my testimony. Because even though people may look at it and say 'poor you', not one time did I ever think 'poor me,'" said Gardner.

WakeMed saw a 5% increase in gunshot victims in 2022, placing strain on the nation's 10th busiest emergency room. In 2021, it treated nine gunshot victims younger than 18 years old; a year later, it treated 31.

"If we take care of a kid who's shot in school or an after-school activity, (hospital staffers are) thinking about their kids," said Dr. Pascal Udekwu, a WakeMed Surgeon.

Car crashes represent another type of trauma incident that doctors and nurses at WakeMed often treat. According to NCDOT, there were 1,783 people killed in car crashes in 2020, representing a 7.8% year-over-year increase, a figure which coincided with increases in the number of crashes and total injuries.

A year prior, Crystal Poole was involved in one of those accidents, when she was struck by a vehicle that hydroplaned in bad weather. Speaking about the immediate moments afterward, Poole recalled her thoughts.

"I've lived a good life and tell my family that I love them ... and tell my daughter I hope she grows up happy," said Poole, growing emotional upon mentioning her daughter.

Nearly four years and several surgeries later, Poole is continuing her recovery, grateful for the care she received at WakeMed.

During his remarks, Gov. Roy Cooper touted steps to reduce the frequency of trauma-related incidents, including the Office of Violence Prevention and Governor's Highway Safety Program.

As for the mental challenges associated with such cases, WakeMed participates in the Trauma Survivors Network, connecting current and former patients who can discuss their experiences.

"I like to be encouraging, I like to be helpful, and I like to just be positive and be that to not only talk the talk, but I walk the walk," said Gardner.

Both Poole and Mason Hilke, who survived a skateboarding accident, provided encouraging updates as they finished their speeches.

"I'm still kicking. I went back to school, I got my Master's, I start teaching on Monday," said Poole, who will be working at Meredith College.

"I graduated from high school on time with my class of 2022, and I just wrapped up my first year at East Carolina University," Hilke said.