Worthington News - April 18, 2007
Barezinsky 'retires the helmet,' continues to recover
Thomas senior growing stronger, wrapping up classwork following August shooting
By PAMELA WILLIS
After a successful skull surgery, Thomas Worthington High School senior Rachel Barezinsky has finally left her helmet behind.
"Rachel had skull surgery over spring break, and today was her first day back at school, and she not only retired the helmet, but she didn't use her wheelchair today," said friend and fellow senior Una Hrnjak on Monday.
Barezinsky was injured Aug. 22 when Worthington resident Allen S. Davis fired a .22-caliber rifle into a car in which she was a passenger, according to Worthington police. Barezinsky was struck in the head and shoulder as the car was being driven slowly past the Davis house on Sharon Springs Road.
Also inside the car were Barezinsky's friends Hrnjak, Tessa Acker, Maggie Hester and Rachel Breen, all seniors at Thomas.
Police said Davis admitted to the shooting, telling them he was tired of being tormented by trespassers. Police said the girls were not trespassing, but were in their car and driving away when Davis fired at them as they drove once, then a second time around his house.
Davis was charged with five counts of felonious assault and is being held at the Franklin County jail.
Barezinsky was hospitalized at Children's Hospital for nearly three months and still is undergoing outpatient physical therapy. She was required to wear a protective helmet after doctors removed part of her skull to relieve bleeding and buildup of pressure on her brain.
Her family released a written statement two weeks ago, stating the cranioplasty performed April 3 by Barezinsky's neurologist to replace that part of her skull was a success.
"The surgery was successful and we expect Rachel to be able to go home in a few days," her family wrote. "Rachel continues to make tremendous progress despite the many challenges from the devastating injury and we continue to remain optimistic for further recovery."
The statement also expressed the family's appreciation for the support of the staffs at Children's Hospital and the OSU Medical Center.
"We sincerely appreciate the support and prayers from family, friends and the entire extended community, including Thomas Worthington High School," the statement continued. "We ask for your continued prayers for Rachel."
As community members are praying for Barezinsky, she is praying for the Davis family, said Suzanne Acker, mother of Tessa Acker and a close friend of the Barezinskys.
"A month or so ago at Rachel's house, she was gripping and stretching her left hand, working hard to develop her left side," Acker said. "She asked me to check out her new-found strength. After she squeezed my hand, I bent down, told her it was awesome, and kissed her hand. I said, 'Rach, can you feel this kiss?' She looked me in the eye, smiled through her disappointment, and said, 'No. But I feel it in my heart.'
"That's Rachel," Acker said. "She actually prays for Davis and his mother because she knows they're hurting, too."
Acker said Barezinsky inspires everyone around her.
"Rachel lives strength and compassion and forgiveness more purely than anyone I've met," Acker said. "She breathes life into a room. She reaches inside you with her eyes and makes everything warm. She's full of joy and gratitude for the smallest progress."
Hrnjak said her friend "seems more like herself."
"We're a lot more open-minded about her walking around now, not feeling like we have to catch her quickly if she loses her balance," she said. "Rachel and I are planning to have our graduation parties together."
Hrnjak said Barezinsky earned many of her required graduation credits at the end of her junior year, before the shooting, but also has been working on schoolwork and going to school at least part time while undergoing physical therapy.
Already giving back
Barezinsky also will help to give back to the hospital that cared for her needs for so many months.
"Rachel will be going with us soon to deliver more than 20 boxes to Children's Hospital," Hrnjak said. "Senior Katie Metz and are co-chairs of a Worthington Youth Service Council project to collect DVDs, books, notebook paper and games for the hospital.
"We decided we wanted to thank Children's Hospital for all they did for Rachel, so we called them and asked what they needed," Hrnjak said. "They needed things to entertain the kids like Rachel who are in the hospital for a long time."
Hrnjak said the collection began March 19, with all Worthington school participating.
"The Moody Printing Co. printed promotional fliers for us free, and in one week we collected items from all the schools," Hrnjak said. "We filled Katie Metz's entire garage with boxes, which have tons of books and movies for every age group. The Worthington Kilbourne boys lacrosse team donated nearly 200 movies by themselves. It was awesome to get such a variety and amount of donations."
Hrnjak said the night of the shooting still haunts her and the other girls who were in the car.
"There are days when we feel it's done, but then it comes back to us -- I think we keep expecting to wake up and find it was all a nightmare," she said. "Rachel is a huge factor in our group of friends, and there were so many things we had to do during our senior year without her. But she is doing so well, and it helps so much to have her back in our everyday lives again.
"She keeps our heads up."