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Originally published Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Shooting victim is heading home

Layla Bush can't wait to go home. The youngest victim of the July 28 shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Bush, 23, is...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Layla Bush can't wait to go home.

The youngest victim of the July 28 shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Bush, 23, is the last of five women to be discharged from Harborview Medical Center. A sixth woman, Pamela Waechter, died in the shooting rampage that could send the accused gunman to death row.

Though she'll still need months of outpatient therapy to regain her strength and mobility, Bush said Tuesday that she's excited about leaving the hospital today, going grocery shopping and cooking her first meal — a grilled-cheese sandwich with tomato and pickle.

Bush's life won't be normal for some time, but it's getting there: On Saturday, she got her first day away from the hospital and went to the Seattle Aquarium, and on Sunday, she went for ice cream in Fremont with her parents, her doctors said. Surrounded by the media, Bush spent 45 minutes in Harborview's occupational-therapy gym on Tuesday, using hand weights and rubber balls in a series of exercises to rebuild muscles weakened from weeks in a hospital bed. She practiced tying her shoes — no easy feat with a brace strapped across her chest to keep her back straight, another brace on her right leg and a small bag hanging from her abdomen to catch fluid from her pancreas.

With the help of a walker, she balanced herself and slowly shuffled across the gym floor to her wheelchair.

"Look at me go ... Make me work for it," Bush said, joking with her occupational therapist. Bush has impressed her doctors with her positive attitude and quick recovery.

"She came very close to dying in the initial shooting," said Dr. Valerie Bodeau. Bush was shot in the abdomen, the bullet damaging her pancreas, liver, kidney and spleen, and missing her heart by about an inch before lodging in the third lumbar vertebrae of her spine, where it remains. She was shot a second time in the left shoulder, but that slug did little damage, Bodeau said.

Bush was joined Tuesday by her co-worker and fellow shooting victim, Carol Goldman, 35, to speak with the media about the impact the shooting has had on their lives. Both said they're grateful to have survived and look forward to returning to work at the Jewish Federation. They joked about "scar competitions" and recounted the day when Naveed Afzal Haq allegedly forced his way into their offices, ranted about the Israel-Lebanon conflict and opened fire.

Goldman said she picked up the phone to call 911 and was shot in the knee. She dove under her desk and listened to the screams and gunfire, saying she worried about Bush because she knew her friend "had no place to hide."

Dayna Klein, 37, Christina Rexroad, 29, and Cheryl Stumbo, 43, also were wounded. Klein was the first to be discharged on July 31, followed by Goldman on Aug. 4, Rexroad on Aug. 10 and Stumbo on Aug. 31, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hansen, adding that the women are still "coming back to our outpatient clinics to get checked on."

After being shot in the stomach, Bush said she fell to the floor, her body partially propped against a wall. The gunman — whom she described as soft-spoken and short — walked away, but returned moments later and shot her again.

"I'm convinced he was taking head shots ... but he was a poor shot. I didn't even realize I'd been shot in the shoulder because it was my gut wound that was really hurting," she said.

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The next time she saw the gunman, he was walking down the hall with his hands on his head. A co-worker yelled to her that he'd surrendered.

"A SWAT team came in and I was like, 'where are the paramedics? I don't want a SWAT team,' " Bush said, laughing.

Haq, 30, is facing nine felony charges, including aggravated first-degree murder in the death of Waechter, 58, Bush's boss. King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng has until Nov. 17 to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

As Bush wheeled herself out of a third-floor conference room to return to the gym for another therapy session, Goldman told her, "It'll be so good to see you out of the hospital."

Bush replied: "We'll have to do lunch."

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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