FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Three months after he was shot in the abdomen and nearly died, Port St. Lucie tile layer Kyle Thaysen remains bedridden in a hospital and can barely speak above a whisper.
He doesn't recall what happened after unexpectedly being shot by a stranger.
All he knows is the aftermath: "It exhausts him to have a conversation," his sister, Stephanie Ubaydi, said Thursday. "He suffers from post traumatic stress from the event, anxiety about the future and depression about his current state."
Thaysen is being fed through a feeding tube — something he may live with for a year — because of a single gunshot wound to the chest.
The 30-year-old man was almost the city's first murder victim during a year in which there have been fairly regular drive-by shootings and gunfire in north Fort Pierce.
About 19 people have been injured by gunfire since March. One was killed.
Some of the incidents involve people who appear to be associated with gangs, but police say they haven't linked gangs to any of the incidents in a city that historically has struggled with violence.
Yet violent crime is down 42 percent in Fort Pierce in the last five years as the economy has lagged. So far this year, the city has had one murder versus seven last year through August, police records show.
During the summer, police and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office did a joint street patrol that confiscated 20 firearms. Still, gun incidents persist.
In Thaysen's case, he was in a car with friends who gave a ride home to an acquaintance whose car broke down at work, said police Detective Charles Donnon, who added he doesn't suspect gang involvement.
When they stopped at the home, near 27th Street and Avenue L, the night of May 10, gunfire unexpectedly erupted.
Within minutes, police arrested Franchilor Devalon, 23, of the 5000 block of Killarney Avenue, and charged him with attempted first-degree murder. He was caught with a firearm after trying to run from the scene, Donnon said.
Devalon contends he is innocent in the shooting of someone he didn't know, the detective said. A trial date hasn't been set.
Within minutes of the shooting, Thaysen's friends drove him to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute. There, while still in the car, he bled to the brink of death near the entrance to the emergency room, Ubaydi said, quoting doctors to whom she talked.
Medical personnel quickly rushed him into a lengthy surgery amid transfusions of more than four times his body's normal blood volume.
"It is an absolute miracle he was not neurologically impaired (brain damaged) from blood loss," she said.
The bullet pierced his right kidney, which was removed; damaged his colon and pancreas and so severely injured his lower intestines that 90 percent of them were removed, said Ubaydi, a mother of four who lives in Michigan with her husband.
Within four days of the shooting, she was at his bedside in the hospital. "He was almost in an induced coma. Yet when I spoke to him he squeezed my hand. He recognized my voice," she said.
Since then, he has undergone about 30 surgeries.
"We're going through it step by step," she said. "There are so many things to go through," Ubaydi said.
He doesn't have insurance. Medicaid is paying the hospital bill that has totaled $3 million so far, she said.
He lived in Port St. Lucie and attended Port St. Lucie High School, but didn't graduate. He got a GED and was working at his father's avocation: tile laying and masonry. He has two brothers and his sister. He's single and an amateur disc jockey.
A date hasn't been set for his hospital discharge. When he is discharged, the plan is for him to move in with his 66-year-old mother in Jensen Beach, Ubaydi said.
"She is overwhelmed by the circumstances," she said. "She isn't a nurse. She is emotionally drained about the injustices of all this."
Family members already have experienced a hint of what lies ahead.He was out of the hospital living with his mother for three weeks until Sept. 6, when he was readmitted because of complications.
"We live minute by minute, hour by hour, wondering how the other shoe will drop," the sister said.
Kyle "is too frail, medically, for the available medical transportation, so my family members in the area were taking time off from their jobs for Kyle's medical appointments, which were occurring three to four times a week," the sister said.
He will need home nursing services. The family was unable to find an agency that accepts Medicaid.
Ubaydi privately hired a nurse, who quit after she learned Thaysen was a victim of a violent crime and became concerned that a gang might come after him while she was caring for him, Ubaydi said.
"Kyle is not a gang member," his sister said.
"It leaves us scratching
our heads how a victim could be treated more poorly than the criminal who sits behind bars awaiting trial," Ubaydi said. "Until this event, my family was a typical Treasure Coast family, living and working in the area all their lives. It has never been easy but it has been manageable."
Now, the shooting has "devastated the family emotionally morally and financially," she said.