Derrick Owens' life hasn't been the same since he was shot twice by a stranger about nine years ago.Junghun Park/America Tonight
“I was 21. I felt like I was on top of my game. I was doing everything I wanted to do. I had everything that I wanted,” Owens said. “And from doing that to now being waited on hand and foot, it was like almost [being] a child again.”
When it comes to gun violence, homicides generally receive the most attention. But often overlooked are those who survive gunshot wounds and the long road of recovery, plus the enormous costs that go with it.
Gunshot wounds are the No. 3 cause of spinal cord injuries, primarily affecting young, uninsured men with the long-term health costs easily climbing into the millions, according to the National Spine Cord Injury Statistical Center.
All told, the talkative 30-something Owens said his medical bills reached nearly $10 million. The former mechanic for a bike rental company was uninsured at the time of his shooting, leaving the hospital to pick up the initial tab, with the remainder needing to be covered by his disability and Medicaid benefits.
“I was back and forth (from the hospital), on a lot of drugs, a lot of machinery,” Owens said. “I had lines in my arms, sent home with home health care nurses, so it was real expensive.”
James Doherty is director of the trauma center at the same hospital where Owens was taken. Crouched over a small workspace in the center of the emergency room, Doherty was going over the day’s log with the night supervisor when a gunshot victim was wheeled in.
He said the majority of people who are shot end up living.
“If you look at the numbers from Chicago, roughly one-fifth of the patients who are shot are homicides,” Doherty said. “But there's a large population of individuals who survive gunshot wounds. Beyond the injuries, they often end up with long-term consequences related to the gunshot wounds.”