Gun Violence A Call to Action

‘Forever Changed': Gunshot Survivors Face Big Impact One Year Out

All three sons of D.C. mother Asiyah Timimi have been shot. She said she prays every time she hears about another shooting, knowing what likely lies ahead for the survivors

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The increase in gun violence has been a hot topic this year. And while we've seen a lot of reporting on shooting deaths here in the D.C. region and around the country, that's only part of the story. More people, almost 85,000, survive gunshots each year, according to safety experts and emergency room physicians interviewed by the News4 I-Team.

It's a reality D.C. mom Asiyah Timimi has seen three times, with all three of her sons being shot.  

“It's a call that no mom wants to ever get," she said. "You're praying on the way and hoping, you know, you're scared to get that call that he's gone."

Someone gunned down her youngest son, Khalin, last March as he was leaving a day hanging out with friends in Suitland, Maryland. 

"I walked in the room and I couldn't believe what I saw," she said after arriving at the hospital. "I held his hand and I told him, I said, ‘You know, you survived this, you're strong.’”

The last thing Khalin remembers before waking up in the hospital was what sound like a firecracker.  

"I didn't even see this individual. I got shot from the back," he said.

Eight bullets pierced his body, hitting him twice in the head, three times in his back, twice in his side and once in his leg.

While he did survive, his life has forever been impacted.  

"Can you imagine one day waking up and not being able to use your legs?” asked the 27-year-old who is now paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.  

"I'm thankful he's alive, but it has forever changed him. You know, not just physically, but mentally. It has ever-changed our whole family dynamic,” his mom said. 

News4’s Shawn Yancy sat down with two parents who each lost a son to gun violence and are working hard to prevent it from happening to other families.

"I'm not sure if someone surviving alone is success because they will carry psychiatric burden with them for the rest of their life," explained Dr. Babak Sarani, chief of trauma surgery at George Washington University Hospital.   

"We're seeing gunshots pretty much every other day," he told the I-Team.  

And he said most of the patients coming into his emergency department these days are like Khalin, with multiple wounds. 

"It would be pretty rare to have somebody with just a single gunshot wound. The average person will have been shot two to three times,” Sarani said. 

He said most people do actually survive, and sometimes will go home with bullets still in them.  

"We very routinely discharge patients who have been shot home from the ER because we have become so comfortable managing gunshot wounds as a medical profession," he said. "It's become normalized, and I think that's a really bad thing."

But for the survivor and their families, the future is anything but normal.  

Dr. Zirui Song with Harvard Medical School followed 6,500 survivors of gunshots around the country.  

"The increased health care spending resulting from non-fatal firearm injuries totaled on average $30,000 per survivor per year," he told the I-Team.

His study found the impact is more than just financial. 

"Survivors of non-fatal firearm injuries experienced a 40% increase in pain syndromes, a 50% increase in mental health disorders and an 85% increase in substance use disorders in the first year alone," he said.

Khalin openly acknowledged the physical and emotional toll being shot has had on him.  

"My life actually has been dependent on pain pills. I'm going to be frank. If I don't have anything, I can't move," he said. "That's part of the dependency that that has affected me as far as causing depression. I'm very independent. And now I have to depend on people for things that are even so small."

Much of that now falls on his mom, who thought at this time in her life she would be traveling instead of being a caregiver. 

"There was nobody there to tell me, OK, this is what you're going to be facing. Here's what you need to know. I was on my own," said Timimi. 

She's faced her own depression after her son's shooting and said they both are in counseling.

"It shows that family members are not unscathed in the gun violence epidemic, despite not being shot themselves," said Song. His study found the family of survivors actually experienced a 12% increase themselves in mental health disorders.

"People don't see this part of it. This is the difficult part of the, you know, what the survivors go through and their families," said Timimi.

Every time this mom hears of another shooting, she prays, knowing what likely lies ahead for the survivors.  

"It can happen to any of us. Any of us. None of us are safe. The guns. Please, please, please put the guns down."

For now, she's focusing on helping her son become more independent and working to prevent gun violence through her mentoring organization.

Khalin said he's trying to stay positive and hopes to one day fulfill his dream of starting a fashion line. "I've had my share of battles with it, way after the trauma. I've had my share of being depressed. I'm human at the end of the day," he said. "It's extremely difficult. You got to be able to make it through it."

Police have never made an arrest in his shooting.

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