Over the weekend the police came to my door in the middle of the night to tell me that my kid got shot and that he was in the hospital around the corner… this is how I felt!
Why I Wrote This Post
I started this blog when my Mother In Law with dementia moved in with us… it was rough on all of us and, while we love her dearly, a definite change in our lives.
I have also written about adopting our three kids from foster care about 10 years ago (I have the date tattooed on my arm so I can remember how long ago it was!)
So generally speaking, I process trauma by writing about it! There is a great quote by Joan Didion that goes, “I don't know what I think until I write it down.” source
That is me too! Until I write it all out and get it sorted in some kind of reasonable order it stays a jumble up in my head.
I got permission from my kid to publish this.
The Knock At The Door
On Friday night at 1:47 in the morning (I KNOW that is technically Saturday but this is my story and I felt like it was still Friday) I was woken from a dead sleep by my beagle barking frantically and my middle daughter trying to calm him down by the front door.
I peeped my head out and there was a sheriff officer standing at the very edge of our entry way trying to look non-threatening with his hands up on his vest….
“are you Joesiah's mom?”
That is the scariest moment of my life. In that heartbeat I thought that he was there to tell me something terrible… he was, but not as bad as I thought.
“Joesiah got shot and he is at the hospital, he is okay but you didn't answer your phone”.
Crap, my phone doesn't ring unless it is a number I know and Joesiah only knows my number, not his sisters or his dad's. At least he had learned our address so the nice sheriff could come track us down!
We had moved from Denver about 8 years ago to a really sleepy bedroom community outside of Tampa, FL. A kid getting shot in the middle of the night is NOT NORMAL around here.
Anyways, I told my middle daughter to get her Dad, Joesiah's been shot in the foot and we have to go. (this was wrong, we learned later)
Ten minutes later we left for the hospital, how do you dress for the hospital… for sure I should have worn warmer clothes to battle the cold and the shock, but for me it was sneaks, jeans and tshirt.
The First Hospital
My husband and I drove up to the emergency room where there were about 6 cop cars and scooted through security relatively quickly (it was like 3 minutes, felt like time about 2 hours). I left my husband behind and walk/ran to Joesiah's room.
There was another nice sheriff there who told us he had actually gotten shot in the knee and of course I could go in and see him. At that point there were two sheriffs hanging out by the door.
Joesiah was on the bed, zonked out on morphine but still able to say hi. Thank the sweet baby jesus!
“My sheriff”, the guy that was in charge of making sure I didn't do any crazy mom things, gave me what he knew to that point… that Joesiah was at a bonfire, two rival groups of kids got into a fight, shot rang out and my kid was hit (this is not accurate but what was said at the time).
That made sense to me, Joesiah had told me he was going to a bonfire in Hudson, check, and at 10 he told me he was “alive”, the normal thing he texts me before his phone goes dead… that kid and his battery life!
Now here is where I have to say “my husband was right”… sigh. Just that night he had been tracking our two kids by their phones and came in to notify they were in weird places, Hudson and our middle girl was roaming around with friends too.
I told him he needed to get a new hobby … heck with that, now I am going to put an air tag on my kid so I know where he is until he is 35!
There was lots of hanging out, doctors and nurses in and out and ultimately they said he would have to go to a children's hospital because he is 16 for surgery.
They suggested John Hopkins All Childrens in St Pete, that was a hard no for me. Having watched the whole “Take Care of Maya” trial, I knew that their practices of taking children away from their parents were horrific and there was NO WAY I was taking my gun shot kid there.
It was decided that we would go to Tampa General and that Pasco Fire would take us there.
Part way through the first hospital the investigation got underway.
Detective Weaver strode up to us in his pink tie and shirt and told us in no uncertain terms that we might not ever know what happened because the kids at the bonfire had all scattered and no one was talking.
About an hour later he came back and said he knew what happened and that, while he didn't know exactly who shot my kid, they had a chance of finding out.
Damn, he is a good detective!
What we know now is that Joesiah and his friend left to go to a house of another friend. Two gals drove the boys over there and then left.
The guys were hanging with the friend of the friend when an older person (the shooter) was “showing them a trick” with the gun, it went off and shot my kid.
Then, instead of calling 911, they hustled him into a car, all Lucy and Ethel style, drove past the Hudson hospital to the Trinity hospital and carried him in.
An accidental shooting.
I spend a lot of time talking to Joesiah and my grand daughter about what an accident is… did you mean to do it? No. Then it is an accident.
Crap, I am mad that my kid got shot, I do want to know who did it, but there will be no, “you shot my kid and are going to jail for a million years”.
Hopefully he will get gun safety training and is sorry that he shot my kid, but we will never know. Unless…
One thing that was super cool I noticed was Detective Weaver tricked us. He stated facts back to us the wrong way and both Joesiah and I corrected him. At first I thought that he should be writing things down if his memory was that bad, but then I figured it out!
He does that to check the story out!
At first the kids all lied about the bonfire shooting, then about the shooting shooting, but eventually he got everyone to talk.
They packed out up my kid and Pasco county fire and rescue came to drive him to Tampa General.
Caleb (the red headed fireman that that my middle daughter thinks is cute) and I chatted a bunch on the way down to the next hospital. UPDATE… she found out how to get his number…. maybe a love connection? We don't know if he single or not, but you never know!
He has two sisters and is the baby of the family like my son is! He was kind and thoughtful and made the whole trip better!
“Not Steve” was the other ambulance guy in the back. He is “Not Steve” because my middle daughter worked at Publix and thought she recognized him, but that guy said he was not Steve!
This is turning into the most Florida man story ever…. sigh.
The Second Hospital – Day 1
We got wheeled into the children's emergency room of Tampa General… it is cute, all pirate-y and calm.
At this point it still felt like Friday night but actually super early on Saturday morning.
A bunch of nurses and doctors came through, there was surgery, no surgery talk and then it was decided for sure surgery, there were bone chips from the bullet in his knee.
BUT overall the bullet had gone right through with very minimal damage… a miracle!
And here is where I get to say I was right… NO Johns Hopkins!
A social worker came in to talk to us about why my kid got shot in the middle of the night. Fair, that is not something that should be part of a 16 year old's life experience.
We talked, explained the situation, she spoke to Joesiah alone, I gave her Detective Weaver's contact information and she said she had cleared the case.
Then we waited, and waited, and waited.
He had surgery… it came out fine. There was a kerfuffle getting us back to see him and I was not fit to be in public at that point so I went home.
The delay in the surgery meant that I had to drive home in Gasparilla traffic, for my non-Florida friends that means that there were thousands of people in downtown Tampa, dressed up like pirates and chugging grog in the streets… I could not catch a break.
Second Hospital – Day 2
I was up bright and early to drive my middle daughter and I back to Tampa. Sunday morning traffic was MUCH nicer than Saturday night party traffic and we breezed on down.
She couldn't stay long because she had work, so my husband (who had stayed overnight with Joesiah) and she went back up home and Joesiah and I settled into trying to get him sprung! It was just a wee bit of a visit, but I think she needed to put eyes on him to assure herself that he was safe.
Our nurse was Lori who was AMAZING! She helped the process along all the way and was truly a shoulder to lean on, getting us all kinds of things we didn't even know we needed.
There was lots of back and forth about whether he could walk on his leg, not walk on it, walk on it and then finally, no pressure on the leg for at least 6 weeks. Crunches (as he says) for Joesiah.
The physical therapy gals were the ones who would be our go-no go test and he passed with flying colors, taking a quick hop around the room. LOTS of pain, but the kid is fighter!
Then we spent the next 4 hours sharing my phone so he could chat with his friends and I could keep caught up on my game.
We called the grandpas and some friends so he could talk to them and let them know he was okay.
The sushi was amazing and Joesiah had a McFlurry and some fries… our diets truly took a hit this weekend.
My kid is home, sitting in my recliner.
I have so many thoughts… if the bullet had his his artery, if it had shattered his knee, if it had hit his heart.
What if this had turned out just a little differently?
My husband keeps saying, “there is no class for how to act when your kid gets shot”.
As former foster to adopt parents we did take lots of classes. How to deal with traumatized kids, how to not raise them the way that we were raised, how to manage ourselves when they test us to see if we will still love them… but no “kid gets shot” classes.
My Kid Got Shot Wrapup
At first I had some feelings about the kids that were with him, but now I know that everyone was just in a bad situation and made bad decisions along the way.
His friend is a super good kid. His friend's Grandparents are great people who let the boys go to a bonfire… they had no idea this would happen either… the gun pointed another way it could have been their kid who got shot.
My kid now knows that if he is ever in a room with a gun that he should leave. Didn't know I needed to tell him that, but I know now.
This is not an anti gun post. My husband and I own a gun. One of our friends owns a gun shop. I was raised with guys who went hunting and our school closed down for the first day of deer season.
But this IS a gun safety article… talk to your kids about what to do when they are in a room with an idiot holding a gun… leave. Call your mom, call an uber, call the police… just don't stay there.
And yes, I have a ton of guilt. Should I have let my kid go to a bonfire where I didn't know everyone there?
He is 16 and 4 months old. He is a teenager and will have his full drivers license in a couple of months. He has friends and they do things, sometimes normal things and this time stupid stuff.
I think this was just a random chance kind of thing that no one but the shooter could have planned for. He could have not brought a gun. He could have not “played around with it”. He is the only one truly at fault here.
Not my kid. Not my kids friends.