Emily Nelson, a player on the Panthers’ flag football team, was shot four times.
DR. PHILLIPS – Just weeks after playing in the state semifinals with her flag football teammates at Dr. Phillips High School, Emily Nelson, 16, is in a hospital learning how to use a wheelchair.
Emily Nelson was shot four times by her ex-boyfriend June 11 outside her family’s apartment in Orlando. The ex-boyfriend has been arrested and is currently in jail, said her mother, Andrea Nelson.
Although the Dr. Phillips junior is in stable condition, she has severe injuries because a bullet punctured her spinal cord. She is currently paralyzed from her T7 down, and doctors said they are not sure how much she will be able to recuperate.
THE NEW NORMAL
“Due to the injuries, she needs to learn how to use a wheelchair and to be able to transfer herself from the wheelchair to a bed and a car and so forth,” Andrea Nelson said. “That’s the main skill she’s learning right now. But mentally, she is sad, definitely. She’s still trying to grasp what happened and what is ahead for her and her long journey of recovery.”
Emily will need to stay in the hospital for her recovery until the end of July. She then will be allowed to go home and continue her treatment at an outpatient center four times a week for six months to train her upper body to compensate for her lower body limbs and develop independent mobility.
Emily also will need to recover mentally and emotionally from the trauma of that day and prepare herself for what her mother suspects might become the new normal.
“She doesn’t talk about what happened that day,” her mother said. “I think she’s going through a bit of trauma. When you ask her anything related to (the incident) she kind of closes her eyes and disappears into herself.”
FINDING A NEW HOME
To accommodate Emily Nelson’s physical condition, the family of five also will need to relocate, because the Nelsons were living on the third floor of an apartment building.
“I’m going to need a miracle to find something I can afford that we can again call home,” Andrea Nelson said. “So that’s kind of the biggest financial challenge I have right now — to be able to find a place and be able to pay for it. For a couple of months, I definitely can’t return back to work due to her injuries.”
The challenge, she said, is to find a new home within her price range in the same school zone to allow Emily to keep receiving emotional support from her friends and teammates from her school’s flag football team and eventually graduate at Dr. Phillips.
“I know the family is in need financially,” said Anthony Jones, the DPHS flag football coach. “The mom is a single mom, and I know Emily has two brothers and a sister. Emily is the oldest, so some days Emily would come to practice, and she’d tell me, ‘Coach, I need to help my mom. Can I leave practice early to go home and watch over my brothers and sister?’ So she played sports, but sometimes, she had to go and babysit.”
Now that her daughter will need care, it will be difficult for Andrea Nelson to return to work and provide for her family for the next few months. And although Medicaid will cover the medical expenses while her daughter is in the hospital, any expenses for outpatient recovery and physical therapy will be out of pocket.
“It’s a little overwhelming sometimes,” Andrea Nelson said. “But I’m trying to be strong for her.”
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]