When school starts next week, Cooper Roberts won’t be able to attend. Cooper, 8, who was paralyzed in the deadly attack on a Fourth of July parade in Illinois, will instead continue to face an anguished recovery.
In a post Tuesday, the latest in a series of biweekly updates, Cooper's family shared the latest information about his progress and the truth about his injuries and the difficult road ahead.
“There are layers upon layers of cruelty with being shot by a sniper,” the family said in Tuesday’s update. “Most people don’t witness the grueling aftermath of surviving these devastating wounds, physical and emotional. We want people to know the unvarnished reality.”
Cooper was paralyzed from the waist down when a gunman opened fire on an Independence Day parade in Highland Park from a nearby rooftop. He may never walk again, his family said in an initial update.
Authorities said the gunman used a semi-automatic rifle similar to the developed-for-battle AR-15, killing seven people and wounding 48 others. Cooper was there to see the parade with family when a round entered his abdomen and severed his spine, his parents have said.
His mother, Keely, who works as a school superintendent, and his twin brother, Luke, were also struck by gunfire but are no longer hospitalized.
Cooper often asks about how he'll fare back in school, even though his return to the classroom is still weeks away, family said. "What will I do at recess?" the update quotes him as asking.
Summer has been hard. Cooper recently transferred from recovery at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago to rehabilitation at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago.
Cooper has also had to live without Luke constantly at his side: Pandemic restrictions at the rehabilitation facility mean his immediate family can gather together with him only once a week, for a short time, the update said.
"He desperately misses his twin brother, Luke," the update said. "He misses his family, his home, his room, his toys, his friends, his dog and his school."
He faces constant pain, slow physical recovery and stomach pain that makes it difficult for him to digest solid food, the family said.
"He remains on heavy painkillers from which he is being weaned this week," the update said.
His family said they are grateful for his survival but want people to know the hardships he faces.
"It is very hard to convince Cooper that he will be happy again," the update said. "He’s an eight-year-old boy who feels hopeless, sad and angry as the reality of his life is setting in."
Cooper’s family noted Tuesday that it was his 43rd day away from home.