Vicki Vertin doesn't have to go to the gym to understand strength. She has it covered physically and mentally.
“Strong will, strong mind, strong heart,” she says.
Her strength is remarkable considering how life tested her November 22nd 2013.
That day had deep roots for Vicki.
She had a child with a man who she says turned on her and threatened her for years. She lived in fear, always looking over her shoulder. "He told me one day he'd kill me. The day he walked in, I knew it was that time."
She was at work at the dentist's office when he walked in; it had been 11 years since she'd seen Danny Thornton.
Vicki recalls Thornton wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and had his hands in his front pocket. “He was like, ‘it's been a while,’ and he just takes out the gun and he just shoots me.”
Vicki had major wounds. Her family had to tell her daughter, Jalina, and her son, Gage the terrible news.
"He actually fell to the floor, he was crying in hysterics,” remembers Vicki’s sister, Sheli Bope. “We got together and they put us in a protective room because at that time he was not caught."
Thornton was Vicki’s first worry after surgery.
"I remember I muffled, 'did they get him?' and my dad said no. I tried to get out of bed cause I thought, ‘oh my god, he's coming back to get me.” But Vicki’s father relayed the news that Thornton was shot dead by police.
It was the first time in years Vicki says she felt safe.
Relief was the feeling she took into what would be a tough recovery. Doctors had to remove Vicki's spleen and most of her pancreas, leaving a large surgical scar.
It was so serious she ended up back in the hospital a few times.
She says she cried in private, but her sister saw tears only once.
Vicki credits kindness for her optimism.
Word got out in Pataskala that Vicki and her children needed help. People sent cards and chipped in with bills. They even got the kids holiday gifts.
Melissa Groothius was one of dozens of people who cooked for the family. "Whatever we could do for her and the kids or the people taking care of her to make it easier for them. That was great.”
The support helps her move forward even though Danny Thornton's trigger pull continues to cause hardship.
In the months her wounds kept her off work, the single mom couldn't pay her mortgage. It means she could lose her home.
"But I’m still here,” Vicki says. Which means she can still be a mom to her kids.
After the shooting, someone gave Vicki a guardian angel. She says it inspires her to speak up.
She says if you're the target of abuse or threats, do what she didn't: report it.