By Adrienne Broaddus and Christina Maxouris, CNN
Roughly two and a half months after getting shot in the Highland Park, Illinois, Fourth of July attack and after multiple surgeries and weeks of rehabilitation, 8-year-old Cooper Roberts is back home — and the road to his “new normal” begins.
“There was a time, not all that long ago, where we were desperately and feverishly praying just for Cooper to live. To be able to have Cooper home and our family all reunited together again is such an amazing blessing,” Jason and Keely Roberts, the child’s parents, said in a Thursday statement.
Seven people were killed and dozens injured when a gunman fired into the crowd during Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade. Cooper’s injuries included a partially collapsed lung and a severed spinal cord.
Cooper’s family has offered regular updates on his condition. The 8-year-old was left paralyzed due to his gunshot wound and at times during his recovery journey has felt “hopeless, sad and angry” at his new reality, his family previously said.
That reality is one that will involve a steep learning curve for Cooper and his whole family, his parents said, as they try to navigate a new way of life with new challenges and adjustments, including in their home, which will now need to accommodate his wheelchair and “many other needs.”
“It’s yet another thing that keeps us up at night — how will we find, renovate or build a home that can work for our family again? Right now, Cooper is only able to access certain parts of the house — that is not right for him or for our family,” their statement said.
And now that Cooper is back home, there are frequent reminders of life before the shooting.
“Cooper has to deal on a daily basis with the sadness and grief of recognizing all the things he’s lost — all that he used to be able to do at his house, in his community, that he cannot do anymore … playgrounds he cannot play on, sports he cannot physically play the way he used to, a backyard he cannot play in the same way he used to, a bike in the garage that sits idle, that we used to have to fight him to stop riding each day,” his parents said.
“For all the love that he has come back to, there are so many painful reminders of what he has lost. There is no word that we know of that adequately describes the level of pain you feel or that Cooper feels when he sees his bike he can no longer ride or his old soccer jersey…heartbreaking, agonizing, despair — there is just not a painful enough description,” they added.
But Cooper has made up his mind about finding new ways to play sports, his parents said.
“Cooper has decided to take up wheelchair tennis. He has already been to the tennis courts a couple times,” they said. “We have no doubt Cooper will be wicked awesome at tennis…and any other sport he decides to play. It will just be different.”
Cooper is also once again able to live — and play — with his twin brother, Luke, who had been one of the first people he had asked us to see after briefly waking up from his first surgeries. The two will now “resume being one another’s very best playmates,” Cooper’s parents said.
“Since the very start, Cooper has inspired us. He is brave and kind. He is tough as nails yet incredibly tender-hearted. He cares more about others well-being than his own. He loves the world … and it is because of the love and prayers you have all sent and continue to send to him that we believe he continues on a path of healing,” their parents said.
A verified GoFundMe campaign has been created in support of the family.
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CNN’s Andy Rose contributed to the report.