NORTON (CBS) – Cheryl Blair has only been outside her home twice in the last three months, still needing a cane to do the work her left leg can’t.
Blair’s life changed in an instant last New Year’s Eve when she was accidentally shot by an off-duty state trooper who was hunting in the woods behind her home.
Blair was walking her dogs when she heard the deafening sound.
“I heard the gunshot and it was loud. And then I felt the sting and that’s when I went down,” said Blair, in an exclusive interview with WBZ-TV.
The half-inch lead ball pierced her pelvis on the left side, shrapnel exploding, as police say John Bergeron mistook her dog’s tail for a deer they say he had seen in the area earlier in the day.
“It wasn’t until I started yelling that I realized he had shot me and not a deer, and he had horror and panic in his voice,” she said.
With no cell phone Blair says the trooper ran for help, and she doesn’t know how long before EMT’s arrived as she lay on the ground with her dogs keeping watch.
“You don’t know if you’re going to die. I know I’ve got pain, I don’t know what the bullet hit. It was imperative to me that I stay conscious, I would not allow myself to close my eyes.”
The bullet shattered her hip leading to nine surgeries for repeated infections that require a daily dose of antibiotics her husband Jim administers through an IV.
Her hospital stay that was expected to last a week turned into two months.
Blair, who recently retired from teaching, says it’s a day-to-day struggle she never planned for in her retirement.
“You ask yourself, why would you fire a gun when you don’t have your target in sight. I hope I can get to a point where I can forgive him,” says Blair.
“I hope I can do that. Right now I need to recover.”
She says doctors are optimistic that she’ll be able to eventually walk on her own without a cane. But she worries about future infections, with shrapnel still lodged in her body.
“What it means long term I don’t know, that’s what worries me. In ten years I don’t know if something’s going to come back and I’ll get another infection.”
The shooting took place fifteen minutes before deer hunting season was to end.
State police called the shooting an accident, but state Environmental Police say the case remains open with no final determination.