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When 18-year-old Chyna Young was shot by her former boyfriend last June, no one expected her or the baby she was three months pregnant with to survive. Shots to her arm, back, and neck left her paralyzed from the neck down, but miraculously Chyna gave birth to a daughter five months later in October. And although she was making significant progress in her recovery, a respiratory infection claimed the young woman’s life this week.

Chyna had only left Memorial Hermann-The Texas Medical Center in Houston one month ago. For the past seven months, the teen spent her days relearning basic skills such as breathing without a mechanical respirator, eating, and using a mouthstick to work a laptop computer. Despite the progress she made, Chyna still required too much care to return to her home in Crowley, LA, but hospital officials believed a nursing home in her hometown would provide proper intermediate care. For Chyna, her daughter, Jada, was her biggest concern. She told the Houston Chronicle as she prepared to leave the hospital:

“I just want to play with Jada. I’m so happy when I see her,” she said.  And those who watched her cope with her life since the shooting say being a mother gave her the most hope. “Once she had accepted the reality that she would be going home differently, but going home as a mother, we saw such a motivated, brave young woman,” said Michael Taylor, a social worker at TIRR.

Now, those who knew Chyna are shocked at how the story that seemed like it would have a happy ending turned so soon.

“The whole situation is such a tragedy,” Taylor said. “There was no ideal ending to this story, but it was going to be a success story.”

Acadia Parish coroner Dr. Mark Dawson has not yet delivered an official ruling on the cause of death. Although the respiratory infection is likely the immediate cause he said, “I’m sure it was a complication of the gunshot.”

Patrick Guillory, 22, Chyna’s former boyfriend, is currently serving 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder for pistol whipping and then shooting his ex-girlfriend four times. If Chyna’s cause of death is linked to the gunshots he could face even more time. Meanwhile, those who knew Chyna are clinging to memories of her triumphant spirit.

“She wanted Jada so bad, and wanted her to be healthy,” said Kristen Soudelier, a social worker at the medical center. “I think she struggled and was strong for Jada all along.”

Check out a slideshow of Chyna’s journey to recovery here.

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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