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Plastic surgeon helps young shooting survivor put past behind her

Julia Davis, 21, has come a long way in the last 3 and a half years since her life was thrown off track on Christmas Eve of 2014. She was 18 at the time, in the middle of her senior year of high school in Memphis, when she and a friend decided to go pick up some dinner. Some people block out traumas. Davis remembers everything about that night. She was riding in the passenger seat, when the car in front of them began swerving erratically. That is when someone started shooting, at them.

"I just remember a bullet coming through the window," says Davis. "And, I looked, and I saw my arm."

The bullet had torn through Davis' arm and then through her chin.

Rushed to a trauma center in critical condition, Davis would spend 8 hours in the operating room, as surgeons worked to save her. Her mother got a call from a friend, telling her Julia had shot.

"That was my prayer, the whole time: let my baby be alive," Regina Davis remembers.

Davis survived, eventually returning to her high school, graduating, and going to college.

She was determined to move beyond the shooting. Still, the bullet had done its damage, leaving her with severe scarring that pulled her mouth down to one side. Regina Davis says she didn't want her daughter to be labeled as "that girl with the scars."

"That was my main focus out of all of this, was, Julia has to be put back the way she was," Davis remembers.

She and her husband knew reconstructive surgery would be expensive, and money was tight.

"The only thing I could tell her is, we've just got to step out on faith, because I knew we couldn't afford it," Davis says.

Last spring, Julia Davis read about Dr. Wright, who had started the non-profit Surgeon's Touch.

"I was, like, 'This is my chance,'" she says.

Dr. Jones and a group of plastic surgeons across the U.S. are offering non-emergency reconstructive surgery to children and young adults ages 7 through 21 whose families cannot otherwise afford it.

Julia was the first to apply.

She and her mother drove 380 miles to Atlanta to meet Dr. Wright.

Right away, Wright says, he knew he had to help Davis.

"When I found out what had happened to her, what I thought to myself was, all that she had endured," he says. "Despite that, she's still strong. She's still beautiful."

In June of 2018, Jones underwent reconstructive surgery to repair her chin.

Dr. Jones removed the deep scar tissue, tethering Julia's smile to one side, and used skin grafts and flaps to smooth out her chin.

"I still have some healing to do, but it looks way better than it was," she says.

The operation, Wright says, would typically cost about $15,000.

The only thing Dr. Wright asked of Julia Davis was that she find a way to pay it forward.

So, she volunteered to feed the homeless back home in Memphis.

Wright says Surgeon's Touch will ask each surgery recipient to perform a community service project as part of their healing process.

"Because there is no better feeling for me than helping someone else," Wright smiles. "Once you have felt that, and felt the power of improving a life, it's an enjoyment and a pleasure that nothing can substitute for."

Surgeon's Touch is looking for children and young adults between the ages of 7 and 21 who need reconstructive surgery.

The program is based on financial need and applicants must meet certain qualifications.

To apply for the program, email restore@surgeonstouch.org.