Last year on Christmas morning, while many children in America were waking up to gifts, seven-year-old Rayshon Cobb was being put into a medically-induced coma to save his life. The night before, his mother, Rachel Cobb, had taken him to Christmas Eve dinner at a family member’s house in Gary, Indiana. Just after midnight, as the dinner and game night were wrapping up, gunshots blasted through the windows of the home from a vehicle outside.
“Everybody ducked and dodged until it was over,” Rachel told EBONY. “When I got up off the floor to get my baby [Rayshon], he was already shot [in the head] on the floor.” Rayshon was rushed to the hospital, endured surgery and was heavily sedated.
“They [the doctors] were saying he might not make it and everything was looking downhill. I lost my husband in 2010 and that was still fresh. It was a lot of stress on me. I didn’t eat; I was just there with Rayshon by his side, letting him know I was there for him. We were just praying he’d wake up.”
When he did wake up, he was paralyzed on the entire right side of his body. He could not speak and had no motor skills. When he became stable, Rayshon was transported to La Rabida Children’s Hospital in nearby Chicago, Illinois. It was during intense pediatric rehabilitation at La Rabida that Rayshon’s baffling recovery occurred. In two months, Rayshon walked out of the hospital and returned home, able to talk, run, play and enjoy all of the things he used to do.
Now eight years old, Rayshon tells EBONY that his favorite subject in school is Math, and he hopes to be “an engineer and a lawyer” when he grows up. He even got to celebrate his recovery as a guest of the Chicago White Sox this summer, hanging out with the team and watching a game alongside his family and La Rabida rehabilitation team. His mom says, “Rayshon’s got a major life ahead of him to live.”
But while the family is rejoicing in Rayshon’s recovery, Rachel still lives in fear, saying “I won’t feel peace,” until those responsible for the shooting are arrested.
Gary Police Detective Alex Jones told EBONY that, though they have suspects, “We’re basically at a stand-still [in the investigation]…We have no probable cause to arrest anybody.”
To help Rayshon emotionally deal with what happened to him, he was treated by La Rabida Pediatric Psychologist, Dr. Robert Finke. With permission from Rachel, Dr. Finke also shared with EBONY.com about the signs parents of child trauma victims should be on the look-out for:
“The first thing [to look out for] is re-experiencing symptoms, where the child is feeling like the events are happening again. Look for physiological symptoms like hyper-vigilance, if the child is on edge around [events surrounding the trauma]. Like for Rayshon, how does he feel when he hears gunshots on T.V. or sees violence on T.V.? Another sign is avoidance symptoms. Is the child avoiding anything that’s related to the trauma? Be aware if the child is crying all the time or anxious all the time in certain settings where the trauma may have taken place.”
In order to help Rayshon through the emotional trauma, Dr. Finke coached Rachel on how to communicate with Rayshon:
“I’ve done a lot of work with Mrs. Cobb on the in-patient side (and I’ve spoken with her and she said it’s ok to share this with you). She said there was this fear of telling Rayshon what happened to him because he did not have any memory of the events. For a child, a lot of people think keep things hidden is the best way to help them, but they need to know what’s going on or they build up in their head a story that might actually be worse. So I worked with her on open communication.
It’s also really important to validate a child’s feelings. If the child is scared and really upset, the parent should validate what he’s feeling and normalize it. Don’t just say, “It’s fine; you’re safe.”It’s important for the child to know that it’s ok to feel their idea of safety has been damaged in some way. “It’s ok to feel scared, but, you’re safe.”So even after the hospitalization is completed, parents should continue to talk about this because, down the road, he may have flashbacks. Parents should provide a safe environment for the child to experience those feelings in and talk about them. [Mrs. Cobb] has done such a great job with that.”
As for what the future holds for her and Rayshon, Rachel tells EBONY:
“I’m just happy my baby’s alive. He’s [going back to] school and living a normal life…I’m happy he’s here. As long as I get to hold my baby again, everything is going to be ok for me.”
Brooke Obie writes the award-winning blog DistrictDiva.com. Follow her on Twitter @DCDistrictDiva.