12/22/2011 01:59 EST | Updated 02/21/2012 05:12 EST

Alberta shooting victim's survival a 'miracle'

Doctors who performed day-long surgery on Shayna Conway, the sole survivor of a murder-suicide in Alberta, told her family that her survival is a miracle, according to a close family friend.

Rob Dale, a pastor, told CBC's radio morning show in Charlottetown that doctors found multiple bullet fragments during the surgery Monday.

"The bullet that went into her shoulder fragmented quite a bit, so as they started to see the different fragments, I think they were quite surprised that she pulled through," said Dale.

Dale said Conway appears to recall the incident quite vividly, but has not been able to communicate in detail because she has a breathing tube in her throat.

4 died in shooting

Funerals are being held this week for the four others killed in the incident on a roadside outside Claresholm, Alta.

Conway and her friend, Tabitha Stepple, were driving Mitch MacLean and Tanner Craswell of Charlottetown to the airport so they could be home for Christmas. They encountered Stepple's ex-boyfriend, Derek Jensen, who shot all four before turning the gun on himself. Conway was the only survivor.

When Conway's parents, Scott and Sherry, heard Dale would be on CBC Radio, they gave him a statement to read that included words of thanks for all the supportive messages they had received.

"It's so encouraging that there is that much love and support. It means everything," they wrote.

"We thank God for our little girl and the miracle that she is here with us, but our hearts are breaking for the families of Mitch, Tanner and Tabitha, as well as the family of Derek."

Dale said Monday's surgery was largely exploratory, with doctors trying to determine the source of some paralysis in Conway's left leg and wrist. What they saw led them to believe there was not extensive damage to nerves or the spinal cord, and that the paralysis appears to be caused by swelling around her neck.

They are hopeful she will recover mobility as the swelling fades.

Doctors made a failed effort to take Conway off the breathing tube Tuesday, but will try again Thursday to see if she can start breathing on her own. It will likely be at least two more weeks before she can leave hospital.