BANGOR, Maine — The 3-year-old girl who was paralyzed by a gunshot to the left side of her neck at her Bald Mountain Drive residence nearly six months ago is already feeding herself and talking a little, and on Saturday she danced with family friend Richard Picken.
The bullet “nicked the spinal cord,” her mother, Danielle Ogden, said in January as her daughter Natalia Ogden recovered in a nearby hospital bed at Eastern Maine Medical Center. “She will be paralyzed, but we’re not sure to what extent.”
Her statement still remains true, but the little girl with blond hair and bright blue eyes is making incredible progress, said Carmel resident Kathy Picken, Richard’s wife.
“They told us she’d be paralyzed from the neck down and she’s proved them wrong,” said Kathy Picken, who spent many hours at the hospital supporting the family and was there when doctors removed the little girl’s feeding tube.
Exactly how the weapon discharged, injuring the toddler, is still an unanswered question, according to Bangor police. Ogden, who was at work, said the gun used “is ours” and the discharge “was clearly accidental.”
Officers responded to reports of the shooting at 54 Bald Mountain Drive at about 4:40 p.m. Oct. 30 and found the injured child with her father, Brandon Ogden, and two older siblings.
The case has been forwarded to the Penobscot County district attorney’s office for review and nobody has been charged in the case.
After her daughter was injured, Ogden said she called her parents, Joline and Wayne Scovil of Carmel, and asked them to care for her two older children, a sister and brother, so she could stay at the hospital.
When Talia, as she is nicknamed, was released from the hospital in January, she joined her siblings. Her parents and her maternal grandparents all declined requests for an interview.
Picken explained that the Department of Health and Human Services placed the children into foster care with their grandparents, which is why neither party can speak to the media. A judge will soon decide where the three children will live.
Brandon Ogden’s mother, Julie Kline of Lake Luzerne, N.Y., however, had no reservations about giving her opinion of the situation.
“I want consequences for this,” she said recently by phone. “People have relayed this as an accident. Accidents are something that could not have been prevented. This could have been prevented.”
She went on to say she doesn’t believe that her son can provide a healthy living environment for her three grandchildren based on his history, which includes “leaving a gun on a table.”
“It’s been a very long road to get where we’re at,” said Kline, who admits she has a rocky relationship with her son, who called her shortly after the shooting.
“He called absolutely hysterical and I hung up on him,” she said.
Kline declined to provide specifics about her son’s history but did say he and his wife have been investigated by DHHS before.
“What kind of abuse has to be done to prevent this from happening again?” she said. “What kind of tragedy has to occur before the state steps in?”
Brandon Ogden declined on Sunday to respond to his mother’s comments, according to a text message from his wife.
“He says no thanks,” Danielle Ogden wrote in the 6:46 p.m text.
Her son should know from experience that loaded guns are dangerous, Kline said.
“Brandon was shot in the eye when he was approximately 10 years old,” she said. “If there was ever a person who should know the consequences of a loaded gun left unattended, you would think it would be him.”
Kline traveled to Maine on Sunday to see her three grandchildren. The Pickens were at the Scovils’ on Saturday for an origami party attended by several relatives and friends, and several months ago they organized a benefit spaghetti dinner-auction to help the Scovils pay for adding wheelchair ramps to their home and other new expenses.
Talia, who requires daily medications and a lot of physical therapy, was also released from the hospital with a tracheostomy tube left in her so she can be attached to a ventilation machine that helps her breath at night, Kathy Picken said. The trach tube is located at the base of her neck and has to be cleared occasionally.
She gets around in a specialized red wheelchair that supports her back, neck and head and she has home nursing care.
The toddler is now whispering words, using her arms to eat and point to items she wants and, occasionally, she has a slight twitch or movement in her legs, Picken said.
“She’s feeding herself, she’s holding her own cup to drink and she’s doing art,” she said. “Her whole personality has changed. She’s outgoing, she smiles and she dances.”
The same is true for her two older siblings, who spent much of Saturday outside enjoying the sunshine, Picken said.
“She wants to be outside with them,” she said, adding having two older siblings has really helped to motivate her recovery.
At one point during the Saturday gathering, Talia said she wanted to dance and Richard was called into action. Someone put on music and he took her hands, swinging them back and forth to dance with her in her wheelchair.
“Her smile would melt your heart,” Pickering said of Talia’s reaction.