NEW ORLEANS -- Bay St. Louis Councilwoman Wendy McDonald squeezed the hands of family members and responded to voice commands Tuesday afternoon, a day after her head struck the ground when a car plowed into her outside a funeral at Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church in Bay St. Louis.
"She's doing as good as could be expected," said her son, Ryan Rupp. "She's actually doing better than the doctors could have hoped."
He said his mom is not awake yet, even though she does seem aware of her surroundings. Doctors are waiting for the swelling in her brain to go down before performing surgery on fractures around her right eye and left ear.
Rupp said his mother was transferred Monday from Memorial Hospital at Gulfport to Ochsner's for those surgeries. At Memorial, neurosurgeon Emilio Tayag removed bone from McDonald's skull to relieve swelling.
"Her brain had significant trauma," Rupp said. "We as a family wholeheartedly believe that Dr. Tayag and the ER staff at Memorial saved her life. It was touch and go there for a minute."
Rupp said friends and community members have been calling to find out how McDonald is doing. She not only serves as a councilwoman, but also as director of Habitat for Humanity Bay-Waveland.
McDonald lived in Houston before Hurricane Katrina, but kept coming to Bay St. Louis to check on her parents. She and her husband eventually decided to stay and help rebuild the community, said Fee Genin, Habitat's family services director.
Genin said Habitat has built 150 to 200 homes since the hurricane in Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Diamondhead and Hancock County.
"There area lot of people concerned for her," Rupp said. "She's got tons of friends and contacts all over. I've been getting a lot of heartfelt words."
Police Chief Mike De Nardo said Monday that an 88-year-old driver hit McDonald because he accidentally tapped his accelerator rather than the brakes, The driver was not charged in the accident.