A Call for Support: From Gunshot Victim to Volunteer, How HCMC Caregivers Saved My Life

I share my story out of a tremendous sense of gratitude. Were it not for the caregivers at Hennepin Healthcare, I would not be walking, speaking, and typing as I am today.

Their work, however, needs your support and I hope I can inspire you to give — offering comfort to patients like me, who may be waking up alone and afraid in a hospital room.

I am a devoted, long-time public school teacher in Minneapolis who never imagined I could be a victim of gun violence. But one night, I heard the noises of an intruder at my back patio door and, as I went to hide in the bathroom, I was struck in the head by a bullet and fell, shattering my face on the side of the bathtub.

I vividly recall first coming out of my coma with no idea where I was. Soon Dr. Wermager came into my room and, as calmly as possible, said, “Kim, you did suffer a gunshot to the head. But you’re at HCMC. You’re in good hands and we are here to help you.”

“You must have the wrong person,” I remember telling the doctor. However, his manner was so calm and reassuring I began to accept what he was saying. From the moment I accepted what had happened, the staff shifted my focus onto the future.

Kim Smith vertical headshot

A team of doctors sat down next to me and said, “Kim, tell us, what do you want to be able to do?” I told them I wanted to be able to walk, eat a meal without a straw, and speak without a stutter. “Ok, then here’s the game plan for how we can get there.” They encouraged me to work through the pain by setting benchmarks.

It was so easy for me to get discouraged and depressed, but they never let me dwell on the negative.

My primary physician, Allison Wert, became like my quarterback, coordinating care between multitudes of clinics and specialists. Everything from the Traumatic Brain Injury Center to Orthopedics, Dentistry, Speech Pathology and Optometry.

As I like to say, I was Humpty Dumpty and they were able to put me back together again.

After two years of rehab, my speech pathologist, Allison Carolan prepared me for work re-entry by planning my classroom workspace, coaching me on movement and positioning my body in order to compensate for my limited vision, equilibrium issues, and depth perception challenges—thus ensuring I could navigate my professional world.

Today I am able to pay forward what so many had given me—helping other patients as an official member of the Volunteer Department!

Miraculous stories like mine are made possible by the financial support of people like you, who believe that high-level healthcare should be available without question or exception.

Please consider making a donation to support the great work being done at HCMC. With a single gift you can transform someone’s outlook forever.

Questions about the Foundation?
Email: [email protected] or Phone: 612-873-3253