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Each day is a painful struggle for wounded FSU student

Time:2018-05-07 04:27Shoes websites Click:

Semino speech paralyzed paraplegic gun control

On the day of his speech at the State Capitol, Ronny Ahmed wakes alone with a hard knot of pain under his rib cage and no one to help knead it.

The caregiver must be late. No time to shower, then. Not much time to prepare. In his wheelchair by the TV, by a table cluttered with pill bottles and Nintendo controllers, Ronny scrolls on his phone, trying to pin down how much the National Rifle Association spends in politics. Maybe better to hedge. Who’s listening, anyway?

He’s newly 25, shiny birthday balloons still floating in the living room, and three and a half years into his paraplegic life, the one that began with a few bullets outside the Florida State University library in 2014.

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The old version of Ronny wasn’t sought out for his thoughts on guns. That Ronny liked to do magic tricks and walk barefoot to class to see people’s reactions. He was going to graduate in 2015.

This Ronny, graduation date TBD, wheels up the ramp into his special van and hauls his paralyzed legs into the driver’s seat. He presses down on his thighs to calm the spasms.

His service dog, Marino, a yellow lab, slumps in the backseat, panting.

TP_416181_DAPR_16_ronny04xx

Farhan "Ronny" Ahmed, 25, of Tallahassee, poses for a photograph with service dog Marino Thursday, April 19, 2018 outside FSU's library.

ALESSANDRA DA PRA Tampa Bay Times

In the budding April heat, Ronny drives past the brick halls and garnet bus stops of FSU’s campus, past the bike racks and the trees draped in Spanish moss. The Capitol rises up ahead.

Ronny’s already counting the faces in the crowd, worrying about how he’ll get up the steps.

He only agrees to these speeches because he doesn’t want to let people down. The world wants a certain kind of survivor.

A fateful decision

It was around midnight, in the last stretch before winter finals. Inside the fluorescent Strozier Library, Ronny typed up Physics II equations. "Wanna go out for a cigarette?" a friend asked, and they stepped out into the chill.

Ronny had finished his smoke when he heard a pop and saw someone rounding the bushes with silver in his hand. He saw the man’s hard-set face and watched him aim. Pop. Pop. Ronny’s legs gave out.

"Call 911," Ronny said from the ground, and his friend dialed and ran, leaving Ronny alone with the operator.

There’s been a shooting, he remembers saying. Send help.

Was anyone shot?

Yes. Me.

Ronny lifted his right arm. It hung shattered, like jelly. He wanted to talk to his mom. Blood trickled between the bricks in right angles.

Is this really happening? Is this how I’m going to f-----g die?

He thought about how expensive a funeral would be.

On the edge of his vision, officers cornered the gunman and screamed, "Freeze, drop your weapon!" A ripple of shots broke out. He would learn later that the gunman, an alumnus suffering from paranoia, was killed. He’d learn two others were hurt, but not like him.

First responders loaded him into an ambulance. The roads were blocked, and still more cop cars were arriving, so the ambulance bumped over curbs. That’s when Ronny started to scream.

Aftermath

First came the crush of attention. The football team wanted to visit, but they were celebrities, so Ronny declined. He deactivated his Facebook page in a deluge of friend requests. People called him a hero. They changed their statuses to say "FSU Strong."

Friends came, but they were awkward, some in hysterics, and Ronny realized he would have to be their guide.

He told them about the first bullet, which paralyzed him from the waist down. He told them about the second, which collapsed his lung, broke two ribs, damaged the nerves in his right hand and stopped just before his heart.

Within a week, all the calluses Ronny had built up in his barefoot years disintegrated, flaking from his unfeeling feet onto the bed.

The daily struggle

It’s almost 10 a.m., two days before the speech. Ronny is groaning in his narrow bed, a yellow blanket shrouding his mop of greasy black hair. The dark room smells of sweat and animals. Ronny’s caregiver, Blaine Howze, a lanky, tattooed 23-year-old, unwraps a catheter and snaps on rubber gloves.

Though Ronny has lost feeling below his waist, pain still overwhelms him. He wakes with kidneys bursting and muscles aching. In his stomach, where scar tissue lumps have formed, the cramps make him want to tear out his own organs.

"Can you try to massage my side?" Ronny asks. He braces himself as Howze works gently. Above the bed is a portrait of Ronny holding a flame. A friend painted it after the shooting.

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