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Text from mother to family after San Bernardino mass killing: ‘Love you guys. Was shot.’

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By all accounts, Wednesday should have been a day of celebration for Julie Swann-Paez. The inspector with the San Bernardino County Department of Health walked into the Christmas party at the Inland Regional Center ready to receive an employee of the year award.

Then the morning turned into a nightmare.

Shooters stormed into the room, opening fire on Swann-Paez and her coworkers. She was hit at least twice, according to her children.

“Love you guys,” she said in a group text message to her family. “Was shot.”

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Attached to the message, sent around 11:20 a.m., was a photo of her face as she lay on the floor.

Her son, Nick Paez, didn’t see the text message until his girlfriend called him at work at the Big Canyon Country Club in Orange County to tell him the news.

“I thought she was dead,” Paez, 26, said as he sat in his parents’ home with his younger brother and sister. Photos of the family filled the small room.

At first, Paez said, the family couldn’t figure out which hospital his mother had been taken to. His father searched different facilities. An officer at Arrowhead Hospital said she wasn’t there. Finally, he made it to Loma Linda Hospital, where he learned she had been shot multiple times -- once in the upper thigh and once in the abdomen -- and needed surgery.

A bullet shattered her pelvis, her children said.

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The family waited for hours to see her, but she was in a post surgery recovery room, Nick Paez said. Families aren’t usually allowed in, he said, but doctors let them into the room for about five minutes around 10 p.m.

“They think it’s your coworker,” Paez remembered telling his mother about one of her assailants.

“That doesn’t make sense,” she replied. “They were congratulating him for having a baby.”

The suspects, Syed Farook, 28, a health department employee, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, were killed in a gun battle with police hours after the shooting.

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Swann-Paez’s other son, Dan Paez, said she was “in good spirits” despite her injuries and the morning’s trauma.

“She was concerned for her coworkers,” he said. “She saw someone get shot in the head ... saw them die.”

Early Thursday morning, Swann-Paez was moved into the intensive care unit. Her husband hasn’t been able to see her yet because her heart rate was too high, Nick Paez said.

His mother’s car is still on Waterman Avenue where the shooting took place, he added.

“I’m just happy she’s OK,” he said.

Paez’s younger brother, Dan, said he remained stunned.

“You want to stay optimistic,” he said. “You don’t know how to feel about it. All you can do is wait.”

Their younger sister, Ellie, jumped in.

“Last night, when I went to bed, I kept saying I hope this is just a crazy dream,” the 11-year-old said.

Follow @sarahparvini on Twitter.

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