The Determination of Ondelee Perteet
February 16, 2010 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Just five months ago, Ondelee Perteet was a typical teenager. Now, just brushing his teeth is a challenge. The Chicago Public Schools student was shot last September.
There wasn't much attention in the press. But what happened to Perteet is a powerful example of the emotional and social cost of a shooting.
Perteet is paralyzed, a victim of not only gun violence, but also an apparent victim of the code of silence.
Tragically the media report so often about young victims of gun violence who lose their lives. The public hears far less about the wounded whose lives are forever altered.
When Ondolee Perteet, a Chicago Public Schools student, was shot last September, there wasn't much attention in the press. But what happened to Ondelee is a powerful example of the emotional and social cost we all pay.
What was once taken for granted for Ondelee Perteet now requires another set of hands.
Ondelee is 15. He was a swimmer, a breaststroker, until a day in early September when a bullet fired at close range struck two cervical vertebrae in his neck. In an instant, Ondelee became a quadraplegic.
Life is now profoundly different - not only for Ondelee, but for his mother, Detreena, and sister. They had to leave their second floor apartment, and are now temporarily staying with other family members.
A health care advisor had suggested to Detreena that her son might be better off in a disabled care facility.
"I wanted to say, 'No,'you know what, you put your kid in a home. This is my son. I'm gonna keep him and work with him and you know what, whatever comes up, I'm gonna deal with it when it comes up,'" said Detreena Perteet.Three days a week, Ondelee is transported to Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital. The therapy is hard work. The challenge is to sit unsupported.
Ondelee could not move his arms or legs at all after the shooting. He now has functional movement of his left arm. His progress is remarkable.
Recently, he did something he hasn't done in five months. He took a drink of water.
Ondelee is determined. So is his mom. They feed off each other.
"She keeps me motivated like, 'you can do it. You can do it. You can do it. Do this. Try this. You can do it. Try. Try. Please try for mama. Would you please try,' and I say ah, OK," said Ondelee.
They are baby steps toward his hope to walk again and to swim again. But his was a very serious injury.
"He may be able to swim again if his recovery continues. But not the way he would have swam before. He has an injury that has permanently changed his life. He will not be the way he was before. He can reasonably expect to always be in a wheelchair," said Dr. Lisa Thornton, medical director, Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital.
In early September, at a party hosted by a relative, Ondelee dismissed some unwanted guests. One of them got a gun and shot Ondolee. Police believe they know who the shooter is. There are witnesses, but they won't testify.
"I'm very angry. I can't even say how angry I am," said Detreena.
Detreena Perteet wants justice for her son, but what stands in the way is either a fear of retribution, or a code of silence.
"If we have people who know who did this, they've got to come forward. Because my question is what's gonna prevent this from happening again?" said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police.
"You don't know where the next bullet's going, so to my thinking, I'd do whatever I could to get someone off the street who has injured another person like this," said Dr. Thornton.
"My son had dreams. And, to a certain extent, that kid destroyed his dreams. Don't destroy my son's dreams because you don't have any. He couldn't possibly have any dreams or he would never have pulled that gun," said Detreena.
Ondelee has lost neither dreams nor determination. He's put anger aside to focus on what he must do.
"I just be like I know I'm going to be able to walk again. I can do this. Just let me go to my therapies, work as hard as I could. You know. I'll be able to do this," said Ondelee.
Ondolee's therapy and all his medical needs over the years will reach into the seven figures. Public aid pays, so we all pay, and that doesn't even measure potential wages lost, and the incalculable emotional cost to a young man who just wants to be a regular kid again.
ABC7 is going to periodically re-visit Ondelee in the coming days.
special segments, paul meincke
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