Last week, Julie Paez received an employee-of-the-year award at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. And Sunday night she took her first drink of water since then.
The same day she received the award, Paez was shot at least twice by a married couple, suspected of terrorism, who targeted a holiday party for San Bernardino County employees held at the center, killing 14 and injuring 21.
According to her niece, Paez played dead after being shot once, but then one of the shooters returned and shot her again, shattering her pelvis. Her bladder was also ruptured, and the bullet fragmented after entering her body, her son wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to raise money toward her recovery.
Her family said doctors inserted rods to help heal her fractured pelvis and she's not allowed to put any weight on it for at least eight weeks. She will also need to learn to walk again.
Despite everything, Paez’s family said the mother of three remains positive, cracking jokes.
"She’s an optimist," her son, Nick Paez, told NBC7. "She doesn’t want people to be sad or down around her, so she just tries to pull everyone up with her spirit when they come to visit her."
Nick Paez said his mother has been joking around with her boss, asking when they need her start answering emails again. San Bernardino County employees began returning to work Monday in the wake of the massacre.
Still, the family of Julie Paez said she’s facing a long recovery. She has yet to eat anything and it will be a while before she can live a normal life again. Family members said Julie Paez, who is being treated at Loma Linda Medical Center, will be transferred to a rehab facility later this month.
Her family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with her recovery, which had raised more than $14,600 toward its goal of $35,000 as of Tuesday morning.