By Rachel Giordano
Shawn Smith, a Pensacola native, was living in St. Petersburg, Fla. On Oct. 11, 2016, his neighbor stood at his door, armed with a Colt 9 mm, loaded with hollow point bullets, waiting for him to turn around.
He fired two shots, one hitting Smith’s stomach, the other, his neck.
The neighbor, 65-year-old Larry Hoad, was angry due to being served eviction papers that morning. About three hours later, Hoad went on a shooting rampage, targeting neighbors that he felt were involved in his eviction. Hoad was Smith’s neighbor for four years. During this time, Smith realized that Hoad caused drama amongst other neighbors, so Smith kept to himself and did not get involved.
When Smith was shot, he fell face first onto the pavement, landing on his stomach. The first officer on the scene realized that he had been shot and took action; if it had not been for the officer’s quick response, Smith would have died at the scene. The officer took his shirt off and shoved it inside the bullet wound in his stomach and plugged the neck wound with his finger in an effort to stop the bleeding.
“I was lying there thinking, ‘This can’t happen. I can’t die. My daughter can’t grow up without me. Just stay awake,’” Smith said.
Smith was in a coma for a month. When he finally awoke, he knew that he had been shot and could not speak, move or talk, and had a tracheal tube. The hollow point bullets caused massive damage to his stomach; so far, he has undergone 26 surgeries. He spent 10-and-a-half months in the hospital and was not able to see his 3-year-old daughter during that time, which proved to be challenging.
Five of those months were spent in physical therapy relearning how to walk, and during all of this, the nursing staff was there by his side every step of the way. He became good friends with all of the nurses and had to learn so much about his own care.
The life-changing event was the driving force behind his decision to enroll at Pensacola State College and pursue a nursing degree.
“I was lying in the hospital bed wondering what to do with my life,” Smith said.
Smith worked for Hilton in Tampa at the time as the Food and Beverage manager and was about to be promoted to Assistant Food and Beverage Director when the event occurred. He is considering an RN degree with a specialization in wound care. The nursing staff that cared for Smith was a tremendous inspiration.
“It just clicked in my mind. I wanted to do something with my life and help other people like they did,” Smith said. “Kind of pay it forward for everything that has happened to me.”