Wounded instructor played dead to survive

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Tuesday was Mary Primis' last night to teach the Latin impact aerobics class at LA Fitness, at least for a while. She was pregnant with her first baby she told the women in her class, and she needed to take a break.

Ms. Primis, 26, was about 15 minutes into her class when George Sodini walked in, dressed in black and carrying a duffel bag. She later told her husband, Alex Primis, that she didn't recognize him, Mr. Primis said yesterday during an interview at Allegheny General Hospital while his wife rested.

When Mr. Sodini started shooting, Ms. Primis, who was at the front of the mirrored classroom, was hit twice -- once in the left shoulder and once in the back -- and fell to the floor.

There, her husband said, she played dead, hoping Mr. Sodini wouldn't come finish the job. She knew she couldn't make it past Mr. Sodini, so she focused on trying to hold her breath.

"She was just waiting, sitting there in her own blood, not knowing what was going on," Mr. Primis said, his eyes wet with tears.

A few minutes later, Mr. Sodini shot himself and the police and paramedics arrived.

When Ms. Primis arrived at Allegheny General's Shock Trauma Center about a half-hour later, trauma surgeon Aurelio Rodriguez examined her injuries.

The gunshot to her back had broken her shoulder blade, but somehow the blade had deflected the bullet away from her major organs. The gunshot to her left shoulder had ricocheted into her ribs, damaging them and puncturing a lung, but also hadn't caused life-threatening injuries.

Doctors decided that no surgery was needed to remove the bullet fragments, he said. Her heart rate and blood pressure stayed normal the entire time, and the baby stayed in stable condition throughout the ordeal.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith can be reached at aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com .


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