MSNBC – Ryann Brown doesn’t remember much from the night she was shot. Just a shadowy figure creeping up alongside the car that she and a couple friends were sitting in, then a shrill ringing in her ears.
She woke from a medically induced coma weeks later dressed in a hospital gown and a diaper. She couldn’t walk or talk. She couldn’t chew, swallow, or move the right side of her body. She couldn’t support her head and the thoughts inside of it were slow and muddled.
“I was like a newborn baby,” Brown recalled. “I wanted to die.”
Brown’s friend, who was sitting in the driver’s seat that cold night in March 2006, was shot dead and Brown suffered a bullet wound to her brain. Her friend’s younger brother, who was sitting in the backseat and was the only other witness to the shooting, would be shot and killed weeks later after talking to police about what he’d seen. Somebody put two bullets in the back of his head. He was 16.
Brown was all of 18 when she was shot, a bubbly, popular senior in high school just months away from her senior prom and graduation. By some stroke of grace she was alive, albeit with a metal plate in her head and her mind and body a jumbled mess.
This is what surviving gun violence often looks like.
While Chicago’s homicide rate and annual tally of murders has made the city notorious as one of America’s most violent cities, it is perhaps the thousands of non-fatal shootings each year that continue to leave the most lingering physical imprint of gun violence. Each year, more than a thousand Chicagoans—many of them children or teens—are wounded by gunfire, collateral damage in bloody skirmishes over gang turf and drugs, girls, or simple disagreements over nothing much at all.
Those who survive gunshot wounds often do so irreparably battered, suffering catastrophic physical trauma. The most violence-weary neighborhoods are pocked with broken bodies. Otherwise healthy young men and women use wheelchairs, many with bullets lodged in limbs. Some lose arms, legs, or control of their sexual organs and their bowels.
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