When we Americans think of the 4th of July, we think of fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, family gatherings, and more. It is a time to celebrate our independence – the ability to function in any given area without depending upon another’s help. It is the freedom from dependence. But this independence was stripped from two young people on July 4, 2007.
Kayla Smith decided to attend the annual fireworks in downtown Baton Rouge, LA with a friend because she had never been. Kayla Smith and Robert Blunschi, Jr. joined many on the levee steps, chanting “oohs and ahhs.” What happened next will affect Kayla, now 19, and Robert, now 24, for the rest of their lives. As they were getting ready to leave, bullets were fired. Kayla and Robert were in the wrong place and the wrong time. Mr. Blunschi was shot in the head and suffers brain damage; a bullet hit Ms. Smith in her right side, zig-zagged five times and come out her left side. It hit her spleen and liver and poked three holes in her diaphragm. The first question she asked after being rushed to the hospital for surgery was, “Why take innocent people and take away part of their life for no reason?”
Kayla’s independence is stripped; her dreams shattered. Kayla was entering her senior year of high school and planning for college. She took dance lessons, played sports, and was a cheerleader. Now she is paralyzed from pelvis to toe and confined to a wheelchair. She has been through numerous surgeries. Most of her organs have healed, with the exception of her spinal cord and spleen, which doctors had to remove. Kayla struggles every day with pain in her legs. It is hard to get up in the morning because of the medication she needs for the pain. She can’t go to the bathroom on her own. The simple things in life are a challenge. Despite all that this young lady has been through, she perseveres. She is attending Baton Rouge Community College studying art.
“After the accident, I realized God gave me my fingers and I figured I might as well do something with them,” Smith said, explaining her renewed passion for various types of art. “I want to get my degree in studio art.” What an amazing attitude for this young lady who has been through so much! Now she is considering a stem cell treatment to help with movement, but there are risks and no guarantee. Kayla is willing to take the risk in the hope that it will at least reduce the pain and/or help her with bladder control. Kayla’s parents are trying to raise money for the procedure, which could reach $20,000.
A fund has been set up through the National Transplant Assistance Fund and Catastrophic Injury Program where people can make tax-deductible donations.
Two-and-a-half years later, the police still have not found the person that shot Kayla Smith and Robert Blunschi. Cases like this can go unresolved forever. Justice is not served. The family may face long-term financial hardships as a result of life-long medical treatment and care. Others may take years, but evidence can surface; witnesses do come forward. Lawsuit Financial hopes this is the case for Kayla and she receives justice. Additionally, we wish for a successful stem cell transplant that will give her at minimal, pain relief.