A 17-year-old who was shot and paralyzed a day after the Parkland school shooting wants in.
So does a father who was about the same age back in 2007, an honor student, when he was left wheelchair-bound after being shot during a botched robbery in Upper Darby.
“I’m a 29-year-old quad, who was shot 12 years ago, and I too know the daily struggle it is to keep a smile on your face,” Leon Harris wrote.
I heard from a Georgia grandmother, whose daughter was killed and grandson was shot and paralyzed when he was just 3-years-old during a home invasion in Philadelphia in 2008.
“I am reaching out for him,” she said. They fled the city after the alleged shooters, who lived blocks from the family, were acquitted in 2011. But they were coming back to Philly for their annual trip home, and wanted to meet.
And from Phoenix, Jennifer Longdon, shot and paralyzed 15 years ago when she and her then-fiancé were sideswiped by a pickup truck. Someone inside the truck opened fire.
“Used to rail against a world that saved my life but didn’t leave enough room to allow me to live," she wrote. "I’m doing GREAT now, but there are still moments...Connect us!”
They’d all read about Jalil Frazier, a young father paralyzed after protecting a group of children during a 2018 barbershop robbery. He wanted to connect with other paralyzed gunshot survivors.
I promised him that if a support/resource group didn’t exist, I’d help him start one.
Scott Charles, trauma outreach coordinator for Temple University Hospital was the first person to step up and offer a room at the hospital, and parking passes to whomever attends.
Another person who reached out was Victoria Wylie, whose brother was gunned down in 2008. She and I had talked about the lack of services for paralyzed survivors when my colleague David Gambacorta and I were working on a story about the forgotten victims of gun violence.
She’d introduced me to John Muldrow, then 39. Shot when he was a teenager, Muldrow was prepared to die that night, he said. What he wasn’t prepared for, echoing the struggles of many in his position, was the daily struggle of a lifelong disability. Or the emotional and financial burden as he embarked on a bureaucratic scavenger hunt for resources.
Wylie was getting ready to start her own group for survivors like Muldrow. I suggested we collaborate — there is already too much overlap of programs in Philly.
They’ll both be at the meeting, now set for Monday, July 15 at 6 p.m. at Temple University Hospital.
I’m hoping a case worker from Magee Rehabilitation Hospital can help make transportation available to those who want to come but don’t have a way. If not, maybe the city or SEPTA’s CCT transportation service for the elderly and disabled might step up.
Since starting at Magee, the case worker told me, she noticed the lack of resources for victims of gun violence around Philadelphia. After reading about Frazier, she contacted me to say she’d be reaching out to other patients to see if they’d be interested in attending the meeting. There are more than we think.
As I’ve written before, it’s been hard to put a number on the people in this position. But we know that since 2015, over 4,000 have survived shootings in Philadelphia, and one surgeon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania alone has handled at least 85 gunshot paralysis cases since 2012.
So far this year, more than 550 people have been shot in the city. Most lived. And many of them, I’m sure, endure life-changing injuries, including paralysis.
Who knows what will come from the meeting next month. Maybe the survivors will continue to meet in person, maybe they’ll find it easier to connect online. Whatever they decide, this should be a group by them and for them.
But at the very least, I hope they become a much-needed resource for one another, one that, as the city struggles to deal with an epidemic of gun violence, will actually help them.