AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – In Feb. 2004, a 7-year-old girl from Austintown was stabbed in the heart by her grandmother. Today, that little girl is using her experience to help others realize that trauma can happen, but it’s not the end.
“I was trying to get out. My body was shutting down. I was, like, spinning towards the door … It’s very blurry in that moment but after that, I just felt my body go numb … The last view I had was my own blood dripping down the stairs.”
At 23 years old, Zabrina Gongaware is an advocate for overcoming trauma, but her journey hasn’t been easy.
She now shares her story of strength and the emotional reunion with the paramedic who helped save her life.
“When I got to my teenage years, I was just like … All my problems were catching up with me and I really thought I would never be happy,” Gongaware said.
But, she has found happiness.
Part of her mission now is going through her case file and meeting every person who was a part of her journey.
Just last week, she met the woman who helped save her life 16 years ago.
“It was surreal. I honestly thought I was in a movie,” said Courtney Kelly.
Kelly was a paramedic for Lane LifeTrans when the call for a pediatric stabbing came in on Feb. 7, 2004.
“I walked in and I kinda looked up to the steps and I’m not really sure how but there was like blood all up the wall going up the steps … I see these little feet at the top of the steps, the very top step,” Kelly said.
Gongaware was not breathing, but Kelly and her partner got her to the hospital within 13 minutes.
“When you hear their story and how that night went, it’s incredible. Like, if one thing would have went wrong, I wouldn’t be here,” Gongaware said.
That was the last time they ever saw each other, but both needed closure.
“I just wanted to hug her,” Kelly said.
“I wanted to fill in the blanks too because there was a lot of questions not answered,” Gongaware said.
So, they connected through Facebook.
“We just looked at each other with tears in our eyes,” Gongaware said.
Gongaware was put into foster care and eventually adopted by a family in Canfield.
She says they are the ones who saved her as a person, but meeting and thanking the woman who saved her life was truly amazing.
“I just want them to know that what they do matters. It’s not just a job, it was my life,” Gongaware said.
Gongaware’s grandmother, Mildred Battles, was charged with felonious assault for the stabbing.
She was found incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a mental hospital.
Battles is no longer alive.