NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It was March 26 when gunfire erupted on Morrison Road, changing a family’s life forever.
“It was one of the worst calls that a grandmother could receive,” says Dorthy White.
Dorthy White panicked and ran to the scene.
“When I got there, the fire department and police were there. Darrelle was face down. They rolled him over, and when they rolled him over, I really thought that was it. There was a police officer, and I don’t know who he was, but he was a godsend to be on that scene. And he held me and said, ‘Mom, if it’s any help, he’s responding,’” says White.
Her grandson was still alive, and paramedics rushed him to the hospital.
“The bullet went into his back. It hit his spine, his liver, gallbladder and parts of his stomach. It really changed in a blink. That phone call changed us,” says White.
After surgery, the doctor delivered the news to Darrelle’s family that the bullet struck his spine and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
“It’s just, why? There’s no reason for it,” says Darrelle.
For more than a month, Darrelle’s been in the hospital. When he thinks back to what happened, he says he can’t understand why.
“We were just walking to the store to get drinks and snacks. Then, basically, a car pulls up,” says Darrelle.
He says the people in the car asked him and his friend if they wanted to buy drugs. Darrelle says he told them no. Later, the car returned and this time, he says they asked him for a dollar.
“We were just like, ‘Really, a dollar.’ And we said no. Then, he hops out with a gun and says, ‘Give me everything in your pockets,’ and we just stopped and looked at each other. We just froze, not really scared. We just didn’t know what was happening. Next thing you know, he shot me,” says Darrelle.
He says he immediately fell to the ground, and before blacking out, he remembers hearing his grandmother’s voice.
“I felt her touch my hand. Of everything, I remember my grandmother’s voice. She was crying and yelling, that’s my baby,” says Darrelle.
“I just question why did you hurt him. He was willing to give you what you asked for. Why would you hurt him?” says White.
For White, violence in New Orleans East has hit home too many times.
“When you see it on television, you look at it in a different way. Your heart goes out to those families, but when you get that call or knock on the door like I did twice, losing my son at 23 years old, and then I get that same call about a gunshot with your grandson. The crime in New Orleans East is unbelievable," sh says.
She says living in fear is real.
“You used to be scared at night. I’m scared now in the daytime. If I’m home, my alarm is on while I’m in this home. The crime is just overwhelming for me. I has me paranoid,” says White.
While trying to cope with the crime around her home, White spends most of her time now at the hospital tending to her grandson.
Recovery for Darrelle means learning how to live in a wheelchair.
“I think the general public thinks your legs don’t work anymore and that’s all people think. It’s so much more than that. It’s all aspects of your life, from your body image, you’ve always seen yourself standing up and talking to people face to face. Well now you have to come to terms with that. You can’t feel anymore in areas, so you’re prone to getting wounds all the time,” says Josh Berthelot.
Josh Berthelot is Darrelle’s physical therapist. He’s showing him things like, how to turn corners in a wheelchair and how to transport himself into a vehicle.
Through it all, Darrelle’s found a way to accept what’s happened to him and he’s fighting everyday to learn things most people take for granted.
“I’d rather just push myself to be better and happy. I mean I have to deal with it at some point, so why not now,” says Darrelle.
“He just takes everyday and gives it his all. Something else I want to add is the support of his family has helped him to continue on,” says Berthelot.
It’s Darrelle’s 21st birthday and his plan was to celebrate in Vegas, but that isn’t going to happen.
Instead, his family, friends and hospital staff will throw him a karaoke party at the hospital. They’ll celebrate Darrelle’s life knowing things could have been much different.
Now, they focus on his future.
“He’s smiling every day. He’s determined. I believe that one day he will walk, but he’s in very good spirits and I wonder, could I be as strong as he is? Could I be as strong as he is? Could I do the things he’s doing? He’s still smiling and encouraging us and helping us. He’s so strong,” says White.