Precious Land Survived a Chicago Shooting, but Is Still in Need of a Miracle

© Joshua Lott for The New York Times Stacey Turner in the rehab center with her daughter, Precious Land, who has been in a coma and paralyzed since she was shot in May.
© Joshua Lott for The New York Times
Stacey Turner in the rehab center with her daughter, Precious Land, who has been in a coma and paralyzed since she was shot in May.

In a spacious room on the fourth floor of a rehabilitation hospital, Stacey Turner talked to her only daughter, Precious Land, as if she could understand every word. She styled Ms. Land’s hair, massaged her hands and set out to paint her fingernails. The only sound was the whirring of a ventilator.

Then the phone rang, and Ms. Turner became exuberant. After hanging up, she leaned down to kiss her daughter’s face and share the good news.

“You’re coming home, baby,” she told Ms. Land, who was covered by a blue polka-dot blanket that stretched from the tracheotomy tube in her throat to the padded boots on her feet. “You hear that, girl? You’re coming home.”

More than three months had passed since Ms. Land had walked, talked or hugged her children — more than three months since a bullet from an unknown gunman was fired at the car she was driving just a block from her house, severing her spine and interrupting blood flow to her brain.

Ms. Land was among 64 people shot in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, when journalists for The New York Times fanned out across the city to record a steep rise in violence. Six of those victims died, including a teenage girl fatally wounded on Lake Shore Drive and a railroad worker shot dead in a car on a quiet street. The 58 survivors, including Ms. Land, were mostly left to languish in anonymity.

Ms. Land was 26, a working mother who the Chicago police said had no criminal record. Doctors do not expect her to recover. And as with most of the shootings in Chicago so far this year, her case remains unsolved.

Ms. Turner, 47, had gone that August morning to visit her daughter at the rehab hospital on the city’s West Side, a trek she made almost every day. But she was thinking ahead. She had ideas, plans. They started with Ms. Land coming home.

For weeks, Ms. Land, paralyzed and comatose, had been on the verge of leaving rehab and returning to the brick, two-family house where she lived with her children and her mother. Once in that setting again, Ms. Turner believed, Ms. Land just might wake up.

To prepare for her daughter’s arrival, Ms. Turner converted her own bedroom into a makeshift hospital room with a mechanized bed and a ventilator. There were new linens and artwork purchased at Dollar General. A hall closet was stocked with feeding tube meals, bandages and tracheotomy supplies. But since mid-July, one planned moving date after another had slipped by.

Each time, there was a reason: The doctor had not signed off; the specialized bed had not been delivered; Ms. Land’s blood platelet levels were too low.

Ms. Turner was disappointed each time, so she instructed the rehab center staff not to call her until everything was finalized, and the only step remaining was to put Ms. Land in the ambulance for the ride home. Finally, she was told, that time had come.

An employee from the home health care company arrived at the rehab center to help pack Ms. Land’s equipment into a purple tote bag. But just as the move seemed imminent, the plans began to fall apart. The doctor had not signed off on her departure and was not responding to phone calls. And there was uncertainty about what Ms. Land should be fed. The morning faded into afternoon.

Before long, the purple tote bag was unpacked and the equipment placed back on the shelf. Ms. Land was not going home that day. Maybe next week, Ms. Turner was told.

“Same thing as last time,” Ms. Turner said, the smile she wore an hour earlier wiped from her face. “They did it to me again.”

Worries About Violence

May 28 was a warm Saturday night midway through the Memorial Day weekend. For many in Chicago, it was a time for barbecues and celebration, the unofficial start of summer in a city known for warm-weather music festivals and baseball games.

But in the West Garfield Park community, a place of few businesses but many weed-filled lots, Memorial Day denoted the start of peak shooting season.

More people are murdered in Chicago than in any other American city, the bloodshed overwhelmingly concentrated near West Garfield Park and a handful of other neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. Some expect the city to eclipse 600 murders in 2016, perhaps more than in New York and Los Angeles combined.

That May evening, Ms. Land dropped off her children — Daveon, Tyreanna and Timia Kirkman, and Jimarrion Williams — a few blocks away to play at the house of a family friend. Then she began the short drive home, steering her car onto West Lexington Street, a one-way dotted with churches and modest houses.

When she was just a block from her doorstep, gunfire sounded. A bullet pierced a tinted side window of Ms. Land’s black Pontiac Grand Prix, slicing through her neck and lodging behind her shoulder.

An ambulance rushed to the scene. Police officers and journalists went, too. One television reporter told his viewers that the nameless victim had died. He was wrong.

As the evening grew darker, Ms. Turner started to worry. Her daughter should have been home by then. More than an hour passed, and Ms. Turner got a call to pick up Jimarrion, who had grown restless at the friend’s house.

On her way to retrieve him, Ms. Turner saw police cars blocking traffic on Lexington and was forced to take a detour. Someone had been shot, she assumed, a sad but ordinary event here.

Ms. Turner had already lost a child to Chicago’s violence. A son, Anthony Jackson, known as “Pierrie,” was shot to death on Nov. 15, 2014. He was 22 years old, and had a son of his own.


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Source: The New York Times | MITCH SMITH