He misses his friends, and school, and being able to shoot baskets without tiring out so quickly. But 13-year-old Iran Brown is "getting back to my life" two months after it was nearly taken by a sniper who gunned him down outside his Bowie middle school.
"I'm not in any pain. I feel normal," Iran said at a news conference at Children's Hospital, where trauma surgeons saved his life after the Oct. 7 attack in front of Benjamin Tasker Middle School.
The lanky eighth-grader with a sprinkling of freckles across his cheeks read a statement, saying, "First of all, I want to thank God for everything. I feel great and am looking forward to getting back to my life, and that includes a lot of basketball and hanging out with my friends."
He said he cannot yet lift heavy objects. "Sometimes I think I'm normal and then I know I'm still not at full strength," he said. The single bullet penetrated his chest, shattered a rib and exploded inside him, seriously damaging half a dozen major organs.
His chief surgeon, Martin Eichelberger, sitting at Iran's side during the news conference and frequently reaching over to hug him, attributed much of the boy's steady progress to a positive attitude. Because his shattered spleen had to be removed, Iran will have to take penicillin every day for at least two years to offset the danger of bacterial infection, Eichelberger said. That risk decreases as patients age, he explained.
The Brown family thanked well-wishers for their prayers and support, but declined to say how much money is in the fund they established on Iran's behalf, or what the public's donations will be spent on, since insurance will cover most of his medical expenses.
"Our entire family was turned upside down with this event," said Iran's mother, Lisa Brown, who has not returned to work at the Internal Revenue Service, where colleagues, she told The Washington Post earlier, have donated about 3,000 hours of leave to her.
The family pleaded for privacy, and Lisa Brown broke down in tears at one point as she explained: "We are so tired. This has been a very, very overwhelming and tiring experience.
"My son is just 13. He just wants to get back to normal life. It's very hard to get back with society's expectations, with people wanting to know this and know that."
Iran glanced up at his mother for permission to answer a reporter's question about whether he felt angry about what had happened to him, but his mother shook her head no, and the teenager fielded a question instead about what he wants out of life.
"I just want to be successful in life and, if I can, make a difference," he said. Asked how he pulled through, Iran answered quickly and certainly: "My family and I just never gave up."
Over Christmas, the Browns are planning a trip to Florida as guests of the Orlando Magic basketball team, which has invited them to a Dec. 23 game against Milwaukee, giving Iran a chance to meet his favorite player, Tracy McGrady. A team spokesman said visits to various theme parks are also being arranged for the family.
Asked what he wants for Christmas, though, Iran kept his own list short and sweet.
"I have enough right now," he answered before tacking on a single wish: "For me and my family to be happy."