Patricia Parete, the Buffalo police officer who survived being shot in the spine nearly six weeks ago, will be headed to the same rehabilitation center where "Superman" star Christopher Reeve was treated, her friends and family announced Sunday.
Weather permitting, Parete, who just turned 42, will be flying to the renowned Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J., this morning.
"In my opinion, she couldn't be going to a better place," said Lt. John King, a good friend of Parete who has been shuttling her mother from her home to the hospital every day since the Dec. 5 shooting.
She is scheduled to take a Mercy Flight helicopter from Erie County Medical Center to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. From there, a fixed-wing Mercy Flight plane will take her to New Jersey.
On board with her will be her companion of 1 1/2 years, Maryellen Opalinski, King said.
"Patty is very eager to start her rehab," King said. He added that she knows that if there's too much snow or ice, her trip may be delayed.
"This is the second step," he said of Parete's road to rehabilitation. "This is where she'll find out about her situation."
Parete suffered a traumatic injury to her spine in the shooting.
Police say a teenager who was on juvenile probation shot Parete in the face. The suspect, Varner Harris, also shot Parete's partner, Officer Carl Andolina, but his injuries were much less severe.
The bullet that struck Parete pierced her chin and then traveled to the spine.
Doctors at ECMC were able to remove the bullet and have managed to stabilize her vertebrae.
Her loved ones say that there's hardly a scar left on her chin.
And she's able to communicate by mouthing words.
She has amazed her physical therapists at ECMC by being able to pull up slightly with the muscles between her neck and shoulders.
But no one knows yet the full extent of the damage the gunshot wound.
All day Sunday, a conference room at the hospital that had been set aside for all of Parete's supporters was packed with family members and fellow officers from her platoon at Central District.
Many who visited the hospital had also attended a fundraiser Sunday in Nietzsche's club in Allentown to help with costs related to Parete's recovery that can't be covered by insurance.
King said Sunday that her family and friends remain hopeful that Parete, known for her passion to physical fitness, will regain her mobility through her rehab.
They dubbed themselves "Patty's 100 percent crew" to show their total commitment to her recovery.
"It doesn't matter how much time it takes," King said. "We just want her to come back to us 100 percent."