Binge-watching wrestling videos, communicating visually with doctors and his family and daydreaming about pizza and steak, a spirited Jesus Rega, who was shot last month in the Back of the Yards while waiting for his school bus, is “making a fast recovery,”’ his family says.
The nonverbal Rega, 21, remains in the ICU at Stroger Hospital, but did not lose any of his eyesight or taste, which doctors warned were possibilities after he was shot twice — in the head and “just missing” his heart — outside their home, his father, Philip Rega told the Tribune on Thursday.
Jesus just had the second in a series of surgeries including one that is helping heal his brain a “little faster,” and others to remove the bullet and skull fragments, Rega said.
“He’s making a fast recovery,” Rega said. “He’s in physical therapy but he’s still a little stubborn.”
Jesus’ parents join him for his daily rehab sessions in his hospital room to make sure he can move around the same way he used to before he is sent home.
“They want him to be normally walking, getting around, up the stairs … so we won’t have a hard time,” his father said.
“He is stubborn,’’ said Rega, saying his son is most comfortable being “directed” in a one-on-one situation. “He likes to be motivated and kinda drilled.”
Though Jesus has been sidelined from school for a while, he is expected to “cross the stage with his friends” and graduate at the end of this school year, his family said on a GoFundMe page organized to help cover medical expenses, which had raised more than $33,200 of a $50,000 goal as of Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Chicago police detectives told Rega they have some leads and video footage of the Jan. 18 shooting in the 4700 block of South Wolcott Avenue, when three attackers yelled gang slogans and fired more than 30 times from across the street where Jesus was waiting for a bus with his dad and brother, 15, who also is developmentally delayed.
“They have some suspects but they’re not charging them with anything because they can’t confirm it was them,” Rega said. “Detectives told me they also have video footage of them.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez, of the 15th Ward where the shooting happened, echoed Rega, saying investigators were “trying to build” on information they have about the assailants and video footage that was shared by a nearby school to nail down the facts.
On the morning of the shooting, it was still dark and Rega could not see the assailants’ faces but he was able to make out three people wearing black clothing walking toward them from 48th Street.
According to a Chicago police report, as they got closer, one of theassailants screamed: “What do you think you’re doing? Who you be?” The three then began yelling “2-6!” according to the report.
Rega whipped out his cellphone and began to call 911 when one of the group began firing at least 30 times from across the street.
ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection system, alerted police to 39 rounds at the scene, and multiple shell casings were recovered, Deering District Cmdr. Don Jerome said at an earlier news briefing.
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Still clutching his hand, Rega and his 15-year-old “ducked” to the ground. Though Jesus “automatically dropped” and was only 5 feet away, Rega could not reach him in time.
No arrests have been made and Chicago police spokesman Don Terry said the department does not comment on ongoing investigations when asked about developments in the case.
Reflecting on their attack more than three weeks later, Rega feels grateful his son is making progress.
Though still cooped up in a hospital room, Jesus has his energy back, and is enjoying watching videos on his cellphone including SpongeBob, Shrek and wrestling, his all-time favorite.
Following the shooting, doctors said Jesus might lose his sight or taste but thankfully they were wrong: “There’s nothing wrong with his eyesight … taste is fine,” Rega said, except he would much rather be indulging in steak or pizza instead of hospital turkey.
Back at home, as the family waits for Jesus’ return, the Regas are not sure Jesus’ teenage brother absorbed what happened to them, but one thing is for sure: “He kinda misses him,” Rega said.
“He keeps pointing at his room.”