Recovery slow for Chattanooga girl shot in the head in March

Recovery slow for Chattanooga girl shot in the head in March

July 24th, 2012 by Beth Burger in News

Keoshia Ford, 14, lies in bed below a board covered with well-wishing cards and letters from friends. Ford is bedridden and in a slow recovery after being shot in the head earlier this year. She receives around-the-clock care from nurses but her family cannot fulfill her medical needs without help. She undergoes physical and occupational therapy, and nurse Keynatta Jennings hopes that she'll eventually be able to walk and talk.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

How to help

Keoshia Ford is in need of supplies, as well as donations.

Supplies needed include: toilet paper, hand soap, paper towels, bath towels, trash bags, peroxide, Toothette oral swabs, bottled water, laundry detergent, saline bullets, cotton swabs, wipes, 4x4 gauze, hand sanitizer, A&D diaper rash ointment, baby shampoo and alcohol swabs.

Donations can be sent to Olivet Baptist Church, c/o Keoshia Ford, 740 E. M.L. King Blvd., Chattanooga, TN 37403.

Keoshia Ford, 14, tries to squeeze the hand of nurse Keynatta Jennings while she lies in her bed Monday afternoon. Ford is bedridden and in a slow recovery after being shot in the head earlier this year. She receives around-the-clock care from nurses but her family cannot fulfill her medical needs without help. She undergoes physical and occupational therapy, and Jennings hopes that she'll eventually be able to walk and talk.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

LeKeshia Matthews mourns the child she once knew.

Her 13-year-old daughter "wasn't no troublemaker," the mother says. About the worst thing she would do was forge her mother's name on permission slips to play basketball.

"She always stayed to herself. She wouldn't get into anything. She stayed in sports," said Matthews, 30, with a smile.

Her daughter, Keoshia Ford, now lies in a hospital bed inside her family's cramped Cromwell Hills apartment. Keoshia -- "KeKe" to family and friends -- suffered a devastating injury to her brain when she was shot in the head during a shootout between gang members March 17. Keoshia was sitting on the hood of a car on Bennett Avenue in Chattanooga when the gunfire erupted.

The bullet remains lodged inside her head just behind her left ear. Doctors were unable to remove it without causing more damage.

The teen described by her mother as strong-willed and independent today cannot perform simple tasks of daily living -- bathing, eating, going to the bathroom, dressing, speaking.

"For the whole family, life changed," Matthews said, sitting in her living room Monday afternoon.

Over the next couple of weeks, Boyd Patterson, one of the coordinators for the city's anti-gang program, hopes to help the family raise money and collect supplies for Keoshia. He is hopeful that the area's faith-based community will help the teen and her family. A prayer vigil is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 4.

Matthews, whose job is doing laundry at a local hotel, has had most of Keoshia's medical bills picked up by TennCare. While the state health plan foots the bill for some of the medical supplies and costs, the 200 diapers covered by the plan aren't enough to last through a month. Nurses have pitched in to buy Keoshia diapers, gowns and towels to help the family.

Matthews' parents have picked up her bills during the past few months after she took a leave of absence from work, she said.

Family members remain hopeful Keoshia will recover. In recent weeks, she has begun to jerk her arms and legs in movements, take deep labored breaths and make noises, which they believe is her attempting to speak.

"Every day, she'll try to do something. She'll move," Matthews said.

The teen's days are predictable; a 24-hour care schedule is posted on the wall. Her tracheal breathing tube is changed once a week. Her diaper is checked six times a day. She is repositioned every two hours -- right, left and back.

"She always was wanting to go places, and now I just see my child laying in bed," Matthews said as tears streamed down her face. "I'm used to her getting up and moving around. She never did want to stay still."

An assortment of cards wishing Keoshia well decorates the walls. A bronzed basketball trophy of a girl taking a jump shot still sits near the window. A recliner takes up space in the corner for the nurses, two of them, each working a 12-hour shift.

Kenyatta Jennings, one of Keoshia's nurses, purchased a small flatscreen television for her.

"To me, I think she is really strong. She's young. Her body and her brain are still developing," Jennings said. "I think she'll definitely bounce back. Even if she doesn't come to a full 100 percent like she was, I think she'll definitely be walking and talking again."

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@times freepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.