Soudani, whose abdomen and leg were ripped open by shrapnel, underwent five operations at the University of Colorado Hospital, where doctors removed her spleen and one of her kidneys, and used skin from her thighs to patch up her left calf. Her left lung and pancreas were damaged, and three ribs were broken.
On Thursday evening, Soudani was released from the hospital and into the reality of her forever-changed life. It includes mounting family tensions over how to pay for her medical care, where she should live and who should look after her.
For the severely injured victims and their families, the Colorado shooting poses challenges that go beyond physical pain and recovery. Some of the victims, such as Soudani, are uninsured; others worry that they won’t be able to pay their rent and other bills. A few are likely to be permanently disabled and perhaps unable to work. Many are young adults, faced with a staggering setback.
“They have to cope with finding a new normal,” said Laura Bacak, director of case management at the Medical Center of Aurora, which treated 18 of the shooting victims. “It’s particularly difficult for a young person who is just starting their life, because they have to grieve the loss of what might have been.”
Caleb Medley, 23, an aspiring comic, has been in a medically induced coma since the shooting. Medley, who doesn’t have health insurance, missed the birth of his son, according to his friends.
Petra Anderson, 22, who was recently accepted into a graduate program at the University of Maryland School of Music, was hit with four shotgun pellets, including one that was lodged in her brain, according to a Web site collecting funds for her medical care and other expenses. She is covered by her mother’s insurance, but her family knows how quickly copays and other expenses can add up because her mother is battling breast cancer.
Ashley Moser, 25, now paralyzed from the waist down, suffered a miscarriage after the shooting. She was studying to be a nurse, according to her family. Her 6-year-old daughter was killed in the attack.
For Soudani, the hospital room was a surreal refuge, a place where friends and relatives celebrated small victories, such as the young woman finishing a fast-food hamburger or getting a surprise visit from President Obama.
But outside of earshot, family members have been arguing and fretting about money. When her older brother Jordan had his appendix removed in March, the bills totaled $87,000. Most were covered by insurance. “Imagine her,” Jordan said. “She was in ICU for 10 days. She’ll have spent a total of about three weeks” in the hospital.