For gun accident victim, life is now a celebration

In taking an account of her state of being, 14-year-old Alyssa Howe doesn’t begin with the exhaustion that still saps her strength.

Or the fact she can’t hear with her right ear. Or the fact that her peripheral vision is limited.

Or the backaches.

When you’re six months past the day a 9 mm bullet accidentally punctured the right side of your skull and you’re upright, thinking clearly again and surrounded by a room full of people dancing, dining and raising money in your name, it’s a good day.

It’s a good life.

“It’s really nice of all my family and friends to put this together,” Alyssa said, surveying the crowd at the VFW Post No. 5789 and Ladies Auxiliary meeting hall in Lee’s Summit on Saturday night.

She starts back to school Monday, the first day for freshmen at Lee’s Summit North High School.

Come Thursday, she’ll be back in surgery to have a prosthetic repair made on her skull, and then she’ll be done with the protective, but stylish, helmet she’s worn whenever venturing from her home.

She’s grown somewhat attached to the foam helmet with the purple animal striping on its hard plastic shell, she admitted.

“But I’m ready to be rid of it.”

She was with a group of friends at a friend’s house Feb. 10 when one of them triggered a handgun that everyone thought was unloaded.

For the first 72 hours, the teenager lay in critical condition with a brain injury. The doctor prepared her mother, Amy Howe, for the worst news imaginable.

“I don’t know if I ever slept,” Amy Howe said, remembering those three days where everyone held their breaths.

To know now that her daughter survived, and that she dedicated herself to an exhausting regimen of physical, speech and occupational therapies, and that she is starting high school with all of her friends “is so inspiring,” she said.

“She has been so strong.”

So Saturday’s daylong parade, including a breakfast, a motorcycle ride, bake sales, silent auctions and a barbecue dinner, clearly took on the air of a celebration as the barefooted Country Rick and the Barnyard Playboys band had people dancing in the VFW hall.

There was also a serious message.

Purple wristbands were being distributed that read, “Ally’s Awareness,” to keep people thinking about gun safety.

It’s a means for creating conversations, Amy Howe said, between adults and children about keeping guns safely locked away, and about what to do if children should come upon one.

There is no anger, the mother and daughter said. Alyssa and the girl who pulled the trigger are still friends. She has spent a day with Alyssa as she went through her rehabilitation.

“It was a way of helping both of them go through it,” Amy Howe said. “We know it was an accident.”

All of her friends are closer and more aware of their good fortune, said another friend, 15-year-old Sydney Cereceres.

“You want to be more careful and live life fuller,” she said.

They went through the harrowing days, then cried with joyful relief the day that Alyssa’s older sister, Alexis, called them with the news that Alyssa was expected to recover.

And then, as Alyssa was preparing to leave the hospital after a month, Sydney said, Alyssa’s mother produced four tickets for Alyssa and friends to see Big Time Rush in concert at the Sprint Center on July 27.

It came as a burst of confidence that she’d be able to go, and they were right.

“She’s doing remarkable,” said Alyssa’s great-aunt Tammie Avelyn, watching her and the rest of the community in the dance hall.

They know many people have been following her recovery and have wanted to help, so they created a Facebook page, the Alyssa Howe Care Page, to carry the news.

“People really come together for someone in need,” Avelyn said. “Ally’s really blessed for everybody that loves her.”