The barrier standing between wounded paramedic Mary Seymour and her return to her life's work wasn't a psychological one.
She'd been gunned down because she happened to be one of the first rescue workers on the scene of a house fire where a hidden gunman waited nearby to unload his arsenal.
But the question troubling her when she started work again this week wasn't, "Will I be too scared""
She wondered: "Can I carry that first patient down two flights of stairs""
People still talked of her miraculous recovery from the two bullets that broke four of her ribs and collapsed her right lung, with one of the bullets grazing her heart. She'd dropped near death on the road in front of the home belonging to Donin E. Wright.
In many of the joyous greetings awaiting her at familiar hospitals, people said how amazed they were she was back.
But Seymour knew.
"It was always just a matter of time," she said. "Just a matter of when."
The amazing part, she said, had already occurred back in those first frantic minutes after the shooting on Feb. 23, and the hours that followed. Wright, who had been feuding with city officials, would end up dead along with a girlfriend after a gunbattle and home explosion.
But the first shocking barrage hit Seymour as she tried to crouch behind the wheel of her ambulance.
She thought she was dead. She'd collapsed to the ground, spit up blood and couldn't breathe. She had a few seconds to say to herself, "This is it," before slipping out of consciousness.
The miracle, she says again, played out in the heroism of her rescuers " the police officers and firefighters who retrieved her under gunfire, and the medical team that mended her.
Her partner, emergency medical technician Jose Ubaldo, remembers the fear lasting through her surgery.
But then, when he visited her in intensive care, Seymour gripped his hand and gave him a look that said everything was going to be all right.
"I knew then she'd be back," Ubaldo said.
The psychological demons, however, may not have been exorcised quite as easily as Seymour is letting on, Ubaldo said. He was under fire that afternoon, too.
"Some days I still have dreams about it," Ubaldo said. "You wake up to it. It's hard to fathom. We were there just to help someone, and this happened. It's unbelievable."
Ubaldo, who was not wounded, took a week to gather his wits, he said, and then went back to the job he has done for 14 years.
Seymour, a paramedic for 20 years, is still working to get back to full strength. A regular jogger before the shooting, she has not yet been able to get back out on the road. Some pain and numbness persists. And she has found herself more tired at the end of the day.
But she built up her lung capacity and her strength enough to pass the Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust's physical tests, especially lifting and carrying. She was ready to go. That first situation came Monday for her to carry a patient, and she did her job.
Ubaldo said he knew better than to try to give his partner any special help.
"Mary's the kind of person who can handle her own. She wouldn't have it any other way," he said.
The MAST board will gather the emergency responders again at its regular meeting Thursday morning to honor their heroism.
Seymour will receive a Medal of Honor, Ubaldo a Medal of Valor. And members of the Kansas City police and fire departments will receive a proclamation of gratitude.
"It's a nice ending for everyone involved in my rescue," Seymour said.