Madison woman shares story of survival after recovery from gunshot wound to the head

Book titled "Too Strong to Die" spreads hope

“You never know how strong you are until strength is the only choice you have.”

That inspirational quote could have been written about Robin Kerl. The 43-year-old Madison woman is recovering from a traumatic experience that almost took her life and left her heart broken.

Now, 18 years later, she’s sharing her incredible story of survival and recovery in a book titled “Too Strong To Die.” Robin said “I want to encourage other people who are going through something. If I can do it, they can do anything too.”

In June of 1999, Robin was the lone survivor of a triple shooting in the parking lot of the west side Madison Walmart. Robin and her fiance David Jones, were ambushed by Robin’s ex-boyfriend. He was waiting for the couple in the parking lot with a gun.

David was shot and killed at the scene. Robin was shot in the head and nearly lost her life. The gunman killed himself. Robin was flown by medical helicopter to UW Hospital, a Level I trauma center.

“It was a Friday. I had a vacation day from work and I was watching the Oprah show. The news came on saying that something had happened at Walmart. The police cars were there and I just got this really sick feeling and I just knew it was Robin. Don’t ask me how but I just knew it was her,” Robin’s mother, Melissa,said.

According to police, the shooting ended a stormy relationship that lasted more than six years. Robin had a restraining order against the gunman.

Robin was in a coma for two months. She was in the hospital for three months and in rehab for more than six months. It was almost a year before she returned home after the shooting. Robin said, “I basically had to re-learn everything that we all take for granted– walking, eating and getting dressed. I think this showed me how strong I am.”

Robin has no memory of the man in the bushes, the bullet or the time she spent in a coma. Robin said, “One doctor told me I’d never walk again. That made me try all the more then.” It took Robin five years before she walked for the first time.

“I practiced by my bed and the wall, hanging on and trying to walk and take a step by myself. The first time I did it, I remember starting to cry.” Robin is working toward a goal of being able to wear her favorite red high-heeled shoes. “I tell my therapist, the harder the better.”

Robin credits her strong faith for maintaining a positive outlook and getting her where she is today. She’s an active member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and shares her story at public events and book signings.

“I can’t even put into words how very grateful and thankful I am for everything the Lord has done for me,” Robin said.