‘I looked back to see my friends. Then it happened. I was HIT. I couldn’t feel my body.’: Man with cystic fibrosis survives shooting, ‘I’ll fight as long as I’m breathing’

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“I was born January 9th, 1990—a healthy baby, weighing the same as my father when he was born. A couple months went by, though, and I started to get sick—I was not holding food down, and my breathing was being affected. Doctors did not know what the diagnosis was until my grandmother did research and demanded a sweat test. I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at nine months old, and I spent the first three years of my life living in the hospital. After this I caught a break. I wasn’t hospitalized again until I was twelve, but in between I was healthy, happy, and all about sports. Basketball was my obsession. I played every chance I got, daydreamed in class—it was all I could think about. I was also playing soccer during this time, and I got invited to play on a traveling team. I was doing so well, but it was too much money, seeing as my father and I were living on SSI.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

My father sacrificed a lot, as did the rest of my family, raising me and taking care of me. As for me, I never looked at myself any differently than any other kid. I was actually convinced I was gonna make it to the NBA, and trained like I was. I credit a lot of my health to this reason. Doctors always were quick to shut down this idea, but I paid no mind to them. It just made me want to try harder and prove them wrong. At thirteen, though, I got pretty sick—something I hadn’t experienced since I was three, so to be honest it was all pretty brand new to me. I was hospitalized for a tune-up at UC Davis. I remember having a moment while I was there of running upstairs, as I still thought I was going to the NBA, even while being hospitalized. I trained daily in that hospital, but I could breathe again. It was a feeling that sent chills up my spine; I had never felt something that made me feel so alive.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

This feeling would come back into my life sixteen years later, in a good way, before a major disaster affected me. After the tune-up, I returned home to find out I had caught MRSA during my visit. To this day, I blame that hospitalization for a lot of health issues to come throughout the rest of my teens. I had to go for three to four tune-ups a year, and still I thought I was NBA-bound, being five foot at this point and 90 pounds. I trained obsessively every moment I got. Around his time, my dad and I were living in Davis and were getting ready to move to a house we bought in Sacramento. One of my favorite moments happened right before we moved. My dad brought home a puppy, a little brindle pitbull mix I had for fifteen years. When we moved to Sacramento, those were my best years. I met all my friends, who I consider brothers to this day.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

At fourteen, a big day happened—Make a Wish built a court in my backyard, where we’d all hoop for hours a day, but at this point MRSA was making it hard to breathe. It affected my life heavily—I spent hours a day on treatments that affected my school life. Most things kids get to experience growing up I had to miss out on: spending the night at friends’ houses, going out. It all went out the window. Instead, I’d spend hours nightly to wake up doing the same in the morning; it was very depressing. I’d work so hard every day, seeing as my lungs were very important in playing a sport involving so much cardio. One amazing thing God blessed me with was family. I had my dad pushing me, always in my ear, telling me, ‘Don’t let anything hold you back.’ I was the same as everyone else—I had my friends at my house everyday and every night, and was blessed with three of the best grandmothers in the world. My grandpa was amazing, along with my uncles, and an amazing mom and little brother.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

As the years passed, CF wore on me. My lung capacity continued to decline, and by the time I was eighteen it was down to the mid-50s. I remember going to practice that day, running drills, and only a quarter into practice I just could not breathe. I remember just having to leave. Depression started to kick in. Everything people told me would happen I denied finally happened. It was like a stab to the gut. I was depressed for months—years, to be honest. Later that year, my health declined more. I dropped out of school, and my dad moved to Eureka where I moved in with my grandparents, only ten minutes away from my old home where I still am now. Things were going the same. I spent most my days at the hospital doing treatments, trying to stay as healthy as I could feel. Years went by, until a major, devastating thing happened to me.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

As I was coming home from the gym, my grandpa went by me in the driveway on his bike. I thought nothing of it. I came inside, said hello to my grandma, but she looked worried. She was on the phone and said she was calling an ambulance for my grandfather. As I walked to the back bedroom, I found him pale on the bed. I asked, ‘Are you OK?’ and as soon as he answered me he had a major heart attack. I got Hulk strength in that moment, seeing he was bigger than me, and I picked him up and put him on the ground and started CPR, but it wasn’t enough. My grandfather, who I looked up to for so long, had passed in my arms. After this, it was me and grandma looking out for each other. I was trying to stay healthy, and still had to do tune-ups. I was flirting with death—I had a high fevers.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

My grandma helped me, and then she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so I had to help her. We had each other, as well as my dog I told you I got when I was thirteen. A few years later she decided to move to North Carolina, so it was just me at the house. Friends would come over and we’d hoop at night or watch games, if they were on, or jump off the roof into the pool. Sorry grandma, haha. Fast forward to the end of November 2019—I had been sick for years, dealing with lung infection after infection. Then a new CF med came out, called Trikafta. I, at this point, had two new puppies, and this medicine worked like nothing else. I thought I had my life back. I was running with them, I was running on my treadmill for 30 minutes a night, something I hadn’t done since I was thirteen. I got the same feeling I did that day in hospital running the stairs—I couldn’t believe it.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

When Christmas came along, my dad, grandma, aunt, and cousin all came for the holidays. When my dad is in town, we always try to go play basketball, and it was the night before my best friend’s birthday, so we all decided to go hoop. This is the night that completely changed my life for forever. More than likely, we were playing for about three hours. I hadn’t ran that much in years. I was feeling so good, walking off the courts laughing, joking around with my best friends. Not a care in the world. At the moment as we were walking to the car, I was out in front—a little ahead of everyone, avoiding the few smokers. I was still joking, turning back to laugh with my friends. Then it happened. About ten feet from our car, shots started going off—non-stop automatic guns. At least a couple before I had time to duck. I got hit. I didn’t know where—my brain was so shaken up. I was in so much pain I couldn’t register what happened. I remember trying to stand and run, but couldn’t.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

I couldn’t feel most my body. I knew it was bad, so I put a hand up and just prayed someone would come back and grab me. And my friends and dad were heroes, they ran back into gunshots to grab me. They carried me into the car and laid me on the floor across everyone’s feet as we rushed to get out of there. I remember looking down at my feet hanging out the car as my friends yelled, ‘Get your feet in!’ I just said, ‘I don’t know why I can’t.’ And they started to move them in for me. At this point I was starting to black out. I was in severe pain, confused. I just remember holding one of my best friend’s hands, and all of them yelling, telling me, ‘It’s gonna be OK.’ And I remember the last thing I said was I loved them all, and I thanked them for being in my life. Then it all went black.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

It was the weirdest sensation ever, one I can’t even explain. I was so mad, frustrated, just in my head screaming, ‘No no no, this is not it, no. I can’t be gone.’ I was so pissed and beyond frustrated. Life was just starting for me again. It felt a healthy life. I should say then, all of a sudden, it happened. I felt it—the pain, the suffering, the feeling of not breathing passed. I got calm, relaxed, warm. I knew I had passed, then someone spoke to me. A man’s voice, I believe I knew who it was. I was raised Rasta, and right away I new it was H.I.M. And in the calmest voice, he said, ‘Would you like to come with me? You’ll be pain free, no judgements will come, and you’ll be happy and able to breathe again.’ And still, after passing, I was just mad. As good as that feeling felt, I told H.I.M I had to go back. I had to return and see my family, my dogs.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

It’s not my time, I can’t accept this. And he said, ‘I can give you the choice of coming with me, where you’ll be free of suffering, or I can let you go back, but it will be the hardest thing of your life.’ And immediately, no hesitation, I said, ‘I have to go back.’ Then my eyes opened in the hospital. I was in this state for probably only a couple of minutes, but it felt like days. I opened my eyes and saw a clock saying it was 1:30 a.m. I couldn’t move my body at this point, I was still confused, my body still shut down. I remember doctors coming in and out, looking and seeing blood transfusions going in. Finally, my dad showed up. I guess the police were holding him, making sure he wasn’t a suspect. Which was ridiculous. I had flat-lined multiple times. They said I couldn’t so much as move a finger or talk. I was stuttering so badly.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

I do remember before my dad came in, a cop harassed me right after waking, asking if I was a gang member. I was just like, ‘OMG, no! I fought my whole life trying to stay alive. I take care of my grandma, myself, my dogs, and I hoop. Gang member, what!?’ along with some other dumb questions while I was still fighting for my life. But then my dad was there. Doctors were talking instant surgery, but said if they mess up I might be a quadriplegic, so at this point I knew my spinal cord had been hit. Finally, the head doctor came in and said no surgery, it was too dangerous, and they wanted to see how much movement I would get back. I spent about a week in the ICU where I stuttered when I’d talk to family or friends. It lasted for about a week, then I was able to move my right hand. Then a week later, my left.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

Soon both arms were moving, but not my left because the angle I was at when I was hit. The bullet went through my shoulder, fractured it pretty badly, hit my ribs, collapsed my left lung, and clipped my T-2 (or the impact broke my T-2), so it left me paralyzed from the chest down. I spent two months there doing rehab. It was the most depressing time of my life. I was just running, playing basketball, and now I’m relearning to walk, to move, with no function in most my body. I was devastated. Words can’t describe how broken my heart was, but at the same time I was thankful. Still cracking jokes with my friends and dad. We had a party in the hospital room every night, but the depression would kick in when I was alone.

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

Now home, I’m doing tons of rehab. I believe I’ll still walk, I have faith, despite what doctors have said. I do four to six hours of rehab daily, pushing through the pain, crying on exercises and movements. All this while still balancing cystic fibrosis. I will continue to fight for as long as I breathe, and apparently even when I’m not. I absolutely love life, my friends, my family, this earth. I am a firm believer heaven is a place on earth, and I want to be here as long as I can.”

Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe
Courtesy of Sebastian Sharpe

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sebastian Sharpe. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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