A Day At The Beach…That Wasn’t

Kim Wilkins of Russell describes her life since the morning of Saturday, May 31, as a series of mercies and miracles.

That was the day she was shot while sitting on the beach at Chapman State Park.

She, her husband Steve, their sons Trever and Matthew, and a handful of grandchildren were enjoying the day at Chapman.

After a bike ride, the family had gathered at the beach.

“We decided to take the kids swimming,” she said.

Shortly before 2 p.m., she was struck by a bolt from the blue. A stray bullet from an unknown source struck her in the left arm.

She is home now and expects a full recovery.

“I’m doing really well. It’s really an amazing story,” Wilkins said on Tuesday. “I give God the credit.”

“It was a fairly busy afternoon,” she said. “I was holding Grace, the youngest one. She was getting tired. Her dad, Trever, took her to the camper for a nap.”

Fortunately, that left Wilkins without a youngster in her lap a few minutes later when she heard gunfire.

“It sounded like a bunch of fireworks or shots,” she said. “Really loud.”

The sound came from the north, she said, but it was hard to estimate how far away it had started.

“I asked Matt, ‘What was that?'” Wilkins said. “Just after that I said I was hit.”

“It knocked me over,” she said. “I sat back up.”

Her son was sitting in front of her watching the kids scattered about the beach.

“I said, ‘Matt, I’ve been hit,'” Wilkins said. “He said, ‘Yeah, right.'”

Wilkins said that it was fortunate, in a way, that she was the one who was hit because she had family nearby available to help.

“When you think about it afterwards, all kinds of people are laying on the beach,” she said. They don’t look much different from someone laying on the beach shot. “It wouldn’t draw anyone’s attention.”

She convinced her son that she did indeed need help.

“He ran up to the (concession) stand, to get help,” she said. “He’s fast.”

“Meanwhile, the kids are right there on the beach” without adult supervision, she said.

Wilkins took on that task, but “I didn’t want to bring them over to me.”

They knew something was wrong. They asked, “‘Nana, how are you?'” she said. “The three older ones, six-year-olds, got on their bikes to the camper, sobbing.”

“I was concerned about the kids,” she said. “I kept asking, are the kids OK? Please take care of the kids.”

A woman escorted the children to the campground where Wilkins’ mother- and father-in-law took over.

Cory Straub of St. Marys had noticed the crying children and asked them what was wrong.

When he heard their Nana had been shot, he stood with her.

Amy Noe was the next to help.

“She’s a hero,” Wilkins said. “She just happened to be on the beach that day. She came running over and applied pressure to the wound.”

“Meanwhile, Matt’s running all over the campground,” she said. “He doesn’t know if I’m dying.”

Trever came back from the campsite.

Matt ran to tell Steve, who had been sleeping. “Steve got up and ran out of the camper,” Wilkins said. “He ran over a bike trying to get to the beach.”

“Matthew ran back,” she said, “and that’s when Matthew prayed over me.”

Between the inability to make an immediate cell phone call to 911 and the remote location of the park, it took some time for emergency responders to arrive. “There was quite a lapse,” Wilkins said.

Park Manager Tyson Martin came to the scene.

“I realized I was going to be OK,” Wilkins said. “I told Steve, ‘I think I can get up and walk.'”

No one let her do that.

Then the ambulance arrived.

“The ambulance came… sweet people,” Wilkins said. “Adam McCumber was one. They just had fear in their eyes.”

Wilkins said she ended up comforting the responders. “I said, ‘It’s OK, I’m going to be OK,”

The ambulance ride wasn’t a long one, but she had the EMTs yell to reassure Steve. “Make sure you tell my husband that I’m going to be OK,” she said.

The emergency helicopter was standing by near the north end of the lake.

“My sons still laugh about this,” Wilkins said. “I wanted to see where the helicopter was parked. They would not let me sit up.”

It was time for someone else to do the reassuring.

“They got me up to Erie Trauma,” Wilkins said. “Erie Trauma Unit did an awesome job.”

“One physicians assistant, Jen, looked at me in the eyes and said, ‘You’re going to be OK,'” Wilkins said. “It meant a lot.”

At the hospital, doctors looked at images of the bullet and established the path it took through Wilkins’ body.

“They figure it spiraled, went into my chest, below my collarbone on the left side,” she said. “It did some nerve damage. It nicked that artery in my arm. They had to put a stent in it.”

She was in surgery the same night.

“That was it,” she said. “A series of mercies and miracles.”

Her arm in a sling and the bullet still in her arm, Wilkins went home two days later. The doctors chose not to remove the bullet right away.

“They said it will take about six to ten weeks to heal,” Wilkins said. She was only in a sling for a week. “Yesterday they told me I could take that sling off.”

And Wilkins said she is noticing consistent improvement.

“I’m doing really well,” she said. “Every day I can move my arm more.”