WILLOWBROOK (FOX 32 News) - Three months after a brutal attack in their home, the family of Melissa Schuster has still not moved back in.
Schuster, who also goes by Mimi, was approached by a man in late August at her family home in Willowbrook. Police say Londale Madison attacked her after she refused to give him some change he was asking for. They struggled with each other and he eventually overpowered her, stabbing her 17 times, beating her and sexually assaulting her.
The attack left the family’s home in disrepair. Mimi said the struggle went through the house and into almost every room.
Throughout the ordeal, some have called Mimi a hero who was able to fight back and help police find her attacker. Mimi's trauma surgeon called her a hero, while she said he's the one who saved her.
“I want to be able to use my story or what happened to help people,” said Schuster.
Over the course of three months, her scars have started to heal, physically and emotionally.
“From everything that happened, and lying in that ambulance and thinking that was it too, and it wasn't,” she said. “I do truly believe I was meant to survive when I probably should not have.“
“She was meant to survive,” said Dr. James Cole, Schuster’s trauma surgeon at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.
She's now thriving with the help of Dr. Cole, who guided her through her pain - both physically and emotionally.
“There are injuries and then there is the person that is injured that is actually more important than the injuries themselves,” said Dr. Cole. “Talk about an incredible story of courage, perseverance, intestinal fortitude and survival
Dr. Cole is no stranger to heroism. He was deployed three times as a Navy captain and an active duty surgeon
“When 9/11 started, I felt personally motivated to get back in the reserve side because I knew they needed trauma surgeons,” he said.
Schuster says she and Dr. Cole connected, not as doctor and patient, but as survivors.
While the physical scars continue to heal, the inspirational talks continue to encourage.
“You have a duty to help others, you have what it takes and you have unfortunately the experience and the street credibility and you have a lot of other people to help,” said Dr. Cole to Schuster. “Whenever you are ready to start doing it.”
Madison is facing multiple charges including attempted murder, and his next court date is December 8th.
The family set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money that insurance has not covered.