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Pregnant dance instructor shot, but survives Collier gym tragedy

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Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009

As she lay in a pool of blood Tuesday night at L.A. Fitness in Collier, dance instructor Mary Primis held her breath and pretended she was dead.

She had just been shot twice and could hear the shooter move about the room where she had been teaching a Latin dance class.

"She wanted him to think she was dead," Primis' husband, Alex, said Wednesday at Allegheny General Hospital, where his wife was recovering in the trauma intensive care unit.

Primus, 26, had a major worry: She is 10-weeks pregnant with her first child. Yet the two bullets that hit her — one in the right shoulder blade and another in the left arm — missed the baby and, other than a lung, any major organs.

"It was a miracle that she got out with the injuries that she did," said Alex Primis. "It could have been tragic."

The couple married six years ago and live in Moon. Mary Primis teaches fitness classes at other area gyms and works as a nurse at Sewickley Valley Hospital, her husband said.

Doctors at Allegheny General today were conducting scan tests to asses Primis' condition and rule out further damage. Bullet fragments remain lodged in her chest wall and her lung, something that can make her susceptible to complications such as infections or bleeding, said Dr. Aurelio Rodriguez, director of trauma surgery.

"She should be OK," Rodriguez said, noting that an obstetrics doctor evaluated the baby. "She was very lucky. It could have been lethal."

As he waited for his wife to return from tests, Alex Primis described the dramatic call he received last night from a woman in the dance class, telling him his wife had been shot.

"It was the scariest thing I ever experienced," he said. "I just couldn't believe it."

He immediately got in his car and drove to L.A. Fitness, but his wife had been taken to the hospital. He arrived at AGH not knowing anything about her injuries, or even if she was alive.

"You feel helpless," he said. "There's nothing I could have done."

In the emergency room, Primis found his wife covered in blood but awake and coherent. She told her husband she did not know the alleged shooter, George Sodini of Scott.

Later last night, Primis said, his wife woke up and became really upset, as she relived the shooting.

"She kept replaying the scene over and over in her head," he said.

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