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Vinita woman survives shooting, walks marathons

Posted at 6:56 PM, Oct 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-03 11:03:55-04

VINITA, Okla. — Bonnie VanDerra shouldn't be here. On Jan. 23, 2018, she was shot in the back of the head twice and beaten by her EMT partner. VanDerra then crawled to a neighbor's house for help. She suffered a skull fracture, head bleed, stroke, seizures and fractured fingers.

"Basically left me to die," VanDerra said. "And I'm too stubborn and hard headed for that nonsense."

As a runner, VanDerra had an important question for doctors after waking up.

"I mean, I was laying in the hospital and I asked the neurosurgeon when I could start training for a marathon again," she said. "And he was basically speechless and kind of fumbled around words and finally was like well, I don't know, maybe in three months."

But that was too long for Bonnie. She walked in the sweetheart 5K just three weeks later.

"We took a wheelchair along, she had her walker, she out walked all of us that walked with her that day to finish that 5K," said Julie Sellmeyer, VanDerra's running partner.

VanDerra's family and friends calls her "Wonder Woman." She continues to walk in 5Ks, half-marathons and marathons across the country. Her goal is to complete a half-marathon or a marathon in each state.

"It helps me get out of bed in the morning," she said. "It's something that, it keeps my brain from going, you know, places it doesn't need to go."

VanDerra continues to have health issues, but she will keep going. She hopes her running will inspire others and remind them to be Bonnie Strong.

"It's a way to get out there and encourage people, even the ones who don't know my story, you know, along the race course and stuff, so, that's why I do it," she said.

VanDerra is looking to add to her medal collection with the Route 66 half-marathon in November.

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