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Victim smiles, but still scared

Jeffrey May's jaw is still wired shut and the left side of his body is paralyzed, but the 15-year-old can smile again. From his MeritCare Hospital bed in Fargo, the Red Lake, Minn., shooting victim curled up a corner of his mouth for the first ti...

Jeffrey May's jaw is still wired shut and the left side of his body is paralyzed, but the 15-year-old can smile again.

From his MeritCare Hospital bed in Fargo, the Red Lake, Minn., shooting victim curled up a corner of his mouth for the first time Tuesday night.

"I told him there was a single nurse there for one of his brothers," said Jeffrey's mother, Jodi May, drawing laughter from the reporters gathered Wednesday to hear the family speak.

Moments of levity are common with Jeffrey May, who his family said has tried to stay positive since taking a bullet through his cheek and into his spine in a struggle with Jeff Weise, the 16-year-old shooter who killed nine others and himself March 21.

But as his classmates prepare to return to school next week, May is beginning his first grueling steps of rehab, and laughter can't clear away his emotional scars.

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He relives the terrible school scenes in recurring nightmares, only in the dreams, May doesn't make it, his mother said.

When he's awake, he sometimes worries about his safety because another boy was arrested on suspicion of a possible connection with Weise's plans.

"We had to explain to him that this place is safe," his mother said.

May, who suffered a stroke from blood loss, is one of the two worst-injured survivors. Fifteen-year-old Steven Cobenais, who suffered severe brain damage and lost his left eye, was taken out of his medically induced coma last weekend at MeritCare, and doctors upgraded his condition from critical to serious.

In Red Lake, school officials decided Wednesday to start classes next week with half-days. The agreement came after about 20 people, including parents and tribal members, joined the School Board for a four-hour meeting, said Carol Aenne, acting Red Lake superintendent.

Classes, which initially will run only through Thursdays, will be at the high school but not in the building's new addition, where the shooting happened, Aenne said.

Though Jeffrey May has told his mother he wants to return to his high school, too, Jodi May said she thought the board was moving too fast. The children need more time to heal, she said.

"I'm sure there's a lot of kids out there who can't sleep," she said. "I know my son can't."

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Aenne, who has temporarily taken over for Superintendent Stuart Desjarlait while he takes a personal leave, said she knows some parents feel that way, and that's understandable. The school will help students at home if their families decide against sending them back, she said.

The board felt it was important to get school running again, for the sake of healing and the children's' educations, Aenne said.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey May is slowly stepping back into the life he led before March 21.

He can now open his eyes and watch TV, which usually means cartoons or "Law and Order," and he gets updates from his brother on the Minnesota Timberwolves' run at the playoffs. He also asked for a PlayStation 2.

"I don't know if he can play a game with one hand, but he says he can," Jodi May said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538

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