(KMSP) - Darell Reed’s life was turned upside down by gun violence. Still, he hopes to be a catalyst for change.
But one thing has kept him from taking his gut-wrenching story on the road: a way to get there.
“I just want to get out. It sucks being in the house 24/7,” he told Fox 9.
Try to imagine five straight years of that "cooped-up" feeling - every moment of every day in the same room flat on his back, in a bed.
“They just told me to be patient, and my response to that was, 'all I know is patience,'” Reed said.
On the rare occasion when Reed leaves his house, it’s by stretcher, for a medical appointment.
He’s been paralyzed from his neck down since 2012.
That’s when his best friend walked in on him while Reed was napping, calmly took aim and fired off seven shots.
“In my face, my cheek, right here,” Reed said, pointing to his injury.
The friend was committed to St. Peter State Hospital, suffering from schizophrenia. Reed tries not to think about that awful day and said there’s no point in dwelling on the negative.
He's just happy to still be here.
“I wake up every day smiling. I go to sleep smiling,” he said.
For the past three years, he’s been trying to get a new wheelchair so he can get out more. But delay after delay has kept him in limbo.
“I’ve been in this situation for so long without anybody really taking the initiative to try to make a difference,” he said.
Last summer, he emailed the Fox 9 Investigators, and things started rolling after his story aired.
Gillette Specialty Care got approval from Reed’s insurance to custom-build him a new set of wheels because for someone with a disability like his, one size does not fit all.
The chair was designed from a body mold taken of Reed while he was seated in the ideal position.
That never happened with his old chair, which he hasn't used in years because it’s too uncomfortable to ride.
Paul Lemke sculpted not just the new wheelchair, but a pathway to new possibilities for Reed; he's a kind of a Michelangelo of mobility for people with disabilities.
The process took weeks, but now it's finally done.
RAP WITH A MESSAGE
Before the shooting, Reed was an aspiring rap musician.
One of his songs, “Please don’t shoot,” is an anthem to end gun violence in America.
He’d like to be a motivational speaker with a message for kids: that school is a far better option than the streets.
And perhaps he will realize that dream soon, as his new chair is ready.
“Overall, he’s been sitting in it for 45 minutes, almost an hour,” said Lemke. “And he seems pretty comfortable.”
Comfortable because it's a perfect fit.
“I mean imagine just lying in bed for five years and to actually be able to have the opportunity to sit up like a normal person and actually be comfortable. It’s definitely a blessing,” Reed said.
It might be cliché to say it’s the simple things that bring joy to life. But on this day, for a young man who’s lost so much, nothing rings more true.
“Today went terrific, not just good, not just great, but terrific,” Reed said.