HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- An 8-year-old boy paralyzed in the deadly Highland Park mass shooting is in constant pain and suffering the attack's "grueling aftermath," his family said.
It has been over a month since a shooter opened fire at the community's 4th of July parade, killing seven people and wounding several others, including Cooper Roberts. He is in his 43rd day away from home and making a slow physical recovery, his family said.
"There are layers upon layers of cruelty with being shot by a sniper. Most people don't witness the grueling aftermath of surviving these devastating wounds, physical and emotional," Cooper's family said. "We are constantly encouraging and motivating Cooper, seeking the positives and hanging on to hope, but we want people to know the unvarnished reality which is his/our new world."
Cooper still has internal damage and slow-healing wounds, his family said. He is on a constant IV drip of antibiotics to ward off infection, has swelling that obscures the full internal picture and suffers stomach pain as his body relearns to process mainly liquid food. He is on heavy painkillers, but is being weaned from them this week.
The 8-year-old is now able to eat some solid foods, but a liquid diet from his feeding tube often makes him feel too full to enjoy them, his family said. They brought him some of his favorites on Monday, but he could only manage a bite or two before feeling too full and nauseous.
The mental impact of the shooting has also been taking a toll on Cooper, his family said. He has started recognize how severe his limitations are as he participates in daily rigorous physical and occupational therapy while maneuvering around two ports, a PICC line and three tubes coming out of his body.
"It is very hard to convince Cooper that he will be happy again," his family said. "Of course, we are beyond grateful for his survival, and we know others weren't as fortunate, but we want people to know his path/our path will be a very long and hard road. He's an eight-year-old boy who feels hopeless, sad and angry as the reality of his life is setting in."
Cooper can only see his whole family once a week for a short period of time due to ongoing COVID safety protocols, his family said. He desperately misses his twin brother, Luke. He misses his family, his home, his room, his toys, his friends, his dog and his school.
His family said he has started to ask questions like, "What will I do at recess?" even though it will be many weeks before he goes back to school.
Still, Cooper's family said every kindness makes him smile.
"We are so grateful for the gift, cards, prayers and donations that will help carry us all through this very bleak period," Cooper's family said.
The family's GoFundMe can be found here.