Chris's Story

by Robin Waters


June 10, 1990, our 17 year old son, Chris, shot himself in the head with a 357 magnum with a 38 slug. It went in his right temporal lobe and exited left frontal. He was rushed to the Trauma center, still conscious. They operated twice as he developed a hematoma late the next day and they had to go in again. We were told that it didn't look good.

After two days in ICU when his ICP monitor went over 80 the neurosurgeon told us that he was not going to live when they took him off the respirator. They thought the pressure was so high that he would never be able to breath on his own. The neurosurgeon called late the fourth night and told us Chris was off the respirator and that he was breathing on his own. I was devastated because from what the doctors had told us I thought he would be nothing but a vegetable.

He started coming out of his coma after about 10 days. They then operated and put in a permanent feeding tube as they thought he would never eat on his own. In the middle of July he was moved to a post-acute hospital, Mt. Vernon Hospital in Northern Virginia. Chris went through all the usual rehab and left for a community-re-entry program up in PA in late October. His psychiatrist thought he needed 24 hour supervision as at that time we thought it was a suicide attempt. It turned out it wasn't a suicide attempt, it was impulsivity and anger. His friends found him after he had left a party and tried to talk him out of the gun and he got very angry and flung up his arm and the gun went off.

After 10 months in the re-entry program he was regressing so we brought him home and it was the best thing we could have done. He did not want to be away from us and he had been acting out.

We moved in 1993 to Wilmington, N.C. from Northern Virginia and Chris got his high school diploma from Laney H.S. ( same one as Michael Jordan). He had to take a competency test which he passed with flying colors. He is now 24 and has been working as a package handler for a mail order shipper for almost two years. In September 1996 he got his drivers license, after taking a driving evaluation at the local Rehab hospital and in January 1997 he moved into a condo with a roommate.

He really likes living on his own and being so independent. He still sees a psychiatrist for meds and an Art Therapist once a week to help him learn to express his feelings and to become more social. The ARC has been working with Chris and they are the ones who helped him get his job. His job coach really had to sell him just to get the interview. They agreed to try him for an hour the next day. If he worked out then part-time until the Christmas rush was over at which time they would no longer need him. He is still there and working full-time with benefits.

It all seems to be working. I remember when he first came home he would not say anything unless he was asked a question and then most of the time all you got was "I don't know." He still has major deficits, short term memory isn't consistent, he lacks initiation and motivation. But he is still improving. The other night there was no milk in the refrigerator and he went to the store and bought some and brought it home. WOW!!! He is doing things such as this more and more often. This from a kid who was supposed to be dead.

We are so thankful to have him with us. I'm now going through the empty nest syndrome and it is really hard but it sure is a good feeling to know he will be O.K. on his own. He still calls when he is in trouble. For example, he is supposed to be at work at 9:00 am and one day at 10:00 am Chris called home and said he was lost. He was across the river where he definitely was lost so I told him to turn around and go to the first convenience store and ask how to get back to Wilmington. He called back when he was back in Wilmington and I got him headed in the right direction and he said, "I know where I am now. Bye". You can't ask for more than that.

He knows to call if he is in trouble and he recognizes when he is in trouble. He still has trouble with hygiene and getting up in the morning but hopefully that will be overcome in the future.


I didn't go into much detail about his treatment and therapies as I thought you would be more interested in what he is doing now. If you want more details, you can e-mail me direct.

Thanks! I hope this will be of some help.

~Robin Waters~




Chris ~ 1996

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