Doctors told Benjamin Pessah's family he might not live after he was shot in the head. But after waking from an almost month-long coma, Pessah said his first words and took his first steps just in time for Thanksgiving.
Pessah, of Burlingame, Calif., was walking home from a Halloween party in San Francisco Oct. 28 with two friends and his girlfriend when a stranger came up and touched his girlfriend inappropriately. Pessah, 21, stepped in to protect her when the man pulled out a gun and shot him in the head.
"It was pretty bizarre and unnecessary," Pessah's older brother, Nick Pessah, told ABCNews.com. "He [the stranger] attempted to shoot the group of four of them. He missed everybody but the last bullet hit my brother in the head."
When doctors first examined Pessah's injuries, they told his family he wasn't going to make it. At one point, doctors said he only had a 25 percent chance of living.
"They weren't going to operate because he was too severely injured," Nick Pessah said. "Then they said they would attempt it but normally they wouldn't. They only did because he is young and has a chance at surviving. They weren't sure if he was going to make it or not."
Pessah was in a medically induced coma for almost a month. But just a few days before Thanksgiving, his breathing tube was taken out and he said his first words. In a faint whisper, he said, "Hi Mom."
"My mom was the only one who saw him speak and it brought her to tears," Nick Pessah said.
On Thanksgiving day, Pessah took his first steps with his parents and three brothers in his hospital room at the University of California San Francisco to cheer him on.
"I was the first one to watch him walk," Nick Pessah said. "I was speechless. I didn't really know what to say, it was very unexpected."
Although he doesn't remember the shooting, which his brother believes is a good thing, Pessah does remember everything else including his computer passwords and address.
"It's a miracle. I couldn't be more ecstatic about his recovery," Nick Pessah said. "It couldn't have happened at a better time. I have more than enough to be thankful for."
Pessah is a part-time student and entrepreneur. He likes going to the gym and hopes he'll be able to again when he fully recovers. One thing he has been able to do in his remarkable recovery is tell his family that he loves them, which they thought they might never hear again.
"Right now I couldn't be more happy," Nick Pessah said. "It's been an emotional rollercoaster. I've been crying, I've been happy. He's beaten all of his odds so I couldn't have asked for a better Thanksgiving."