Labor Day violence is a tragic fact of life in Chicago. For some, it is something to read about, lines of text with ages and locations. For others, those names belong to friends and family who’ve had their lives taken away or ripped apart.
Damari Hendrix was one of those lines of text on Labor Day weekend in 2016: “16-year-old-boy shot in LaFollete Park. He was shot in the head and went to Mount Sinai in critical condition.”
Doctors told Jorie Hendrix, Damari’s mom, that there was a 99 percent chance he wouldn’t survive the operation they needed to perform on his head.
“I don’t know why, but I just knew he would be ok,” Jorie Hendrix said. “Damari is my fighter. That’s been my outlook ever since the incident happened.”
Damari Hendrix survived. He relearned how to talk and how to walk. Against all odds, the Foreman junior was back on the basketball court Monday, dunking during the first practice of the season.
LaFollette Park is where Hendrix and his friends hang out, he grew up there. On the Saturday night of the shooting Hendrix was there with his little brother, his teammate Bobby Hughes and other boys and girls.
“It was a normal day,” Hendrix said. “On Saturdays the older people play five-on-fives. We waited until they were done and played until it got too dark. Then we were just sitting around laughing and having a good time.”
Then, in the distance, Hendrix saw a group walking towards him
“In that neighborhood when you see a group of people walking towards you, you need to move,” Hendrix said. “Right away, I told my little brother to leave and he headed home. We started grabbing our stuff and then they started shooting at us.
“I didn’t know I was hit until I was running and my body started shutting down. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk or move my body.”
Hendrix had dreadlocks, so the paramedics couldn’t initially see that the gunshot was in his head.
“They couldn’t find where I was bleeding from,” Hendrix said. “Then they started squeezing my head and the bullet came out. The blood started gushing and it was hot.”
Hendrix had three surgeries and was in a medically-induced coma for four days. The rehabilitation was a battle. He was shot on the right side of his head which effected his left side. He’s left-handed.
“I was in therapy three times a day for four months,” Hendrix said. “I was on a liquid diet. Everything came back slowly. It was a month or two until I could talk.”
At one point he gave up hope of playing sports.
“I didn’t think I would ever hoop again,” Hendrix said. “I was giving away my hooping shoes. I really didn’t think I was going to play sports again.”
Hughes and some friends visited Hendrix at the hospital. Hendrix was in a wheelchair, but they went up to the roof, where there is a basketball court.
“I couldn’t walk yet, but I wanted to shoot a basketball,” Hendrix said. “The recovery was gradual, but that was a big moment. When you are a kid you want things to happen quick and fast and it just wasn’t happening fast enough for me. It was going so slow I didn’t think I’d ever get back. But everyone kept telling me that I was progressing.”
Hendrix was home-schooled sophomore year. That isolation and rehabilitation was difficult.
“Waking up in the morning was tough sometimes,” Hendrix said. “You don’t remember right away that you can’t do everything you used to do. Then you look in the mirror and realize. I was sad, wondering why it had to be me. It isn’t great waking up that way.”
The night Hendrix was shot word went around on social media that he was dead.
“Everyone was tweeting RIP Damari,” Foreman junior Ramonte Walker said. “His mom had to tell everyone he wasn’t dead. It was confusing and there were a lot of emotions going around.”
The shooter was never caught. Jorie Hendrix says the police lost interest in the case when they found out her son survived.
“That doesn’t matter to me,” Jorie Hendrix said. “I have my child’s life. That is all that matters.”
Monday was just practice. Foreman’s first game this season is on Nov. 20.
“It will be like LeBron’s return to Cleveland,” Walker said. We’re so excited to see him back on the court.”Tags: Foreman