SAVANNAH, G.a. (WSAV) – Michael Gibson, a Savannah man and Air Force veteran, was walking his dog, Poe, in the driveway of his Southside home in August 2018 when he was shot in the neck. That shot left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Three years later, Michael said he’s made progress but is still recovering.
“What you’re looking at is a disabled body but long story short I lived,” he said. “And that was not by anything short of a miracle and determination.”
One of Michael’s vocal cords was also paralyzed, making it difficult to speak. The last time News 3 spoke with Michael in March 2019, he was working on regaining full movement in his fingers. He estimates he’s gained about 40% of movement between his two hands.
Michael and his wife, Felicia, say their current life is not the future they had envisioned.
“He had to learn just how to brush his teeth again, showering is a whole other thing, cooking’s a whole other thing,” Felicia said.
“Even getting in and out of bed for a quick nap is a situation,” Michael said.
In addition to over $1 million in medical bills, the Gibsons have renovated their kitchen to be wheelchair-accessible and also purchased a handicapped van. The three-year anniversary of the shooting hit different for the couple, as they still don’t know who is responsible for shooting Michael.
“Every once in a while you just get weird feelings but you just have to keep going knowing that there are still good people out there and just being careful,” Felicia said.
“Who’s to say he’s not going to do that to anyone else?” Michael said. “Best case scenario he hit me, saw me go down and felt bad and changed his life around. Did that happen? I guarantee you, no.”
The Gibsons say they are still working with detectives to figure out who shot Michael.
Despite the uphill battle, the Gibsons became motivated to advocate for other people living with paralysis.
“You don’t realize it’s a problem until it affects you, which is sad to say but it gives you a whole new perspective,” Felicia said. “I know that there are a lot of people out there like Michael who want to go out and have a great quality of life and fulfilling lives and be able just to go out and hang out with their family comfortably and safely. So we just want to help others do that.”
They are working with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which helps fund spinal cord injury research.
“I can’t say I wouldn’t change things because obviously, it would be much nicer to just be completely ignorant of all the things that we had to learn over the last three years,” Felicia said. “But it’s made us stronger, it’s brought awareness to an issue that needs it. And I mean if we can survive this, we should be able to survive anything.”
Since the shooting, Poe has been registered as a service dog for Michael. With Poe at his right hand, Michael is trying to find the silver lining and make the most of his new life.
“We can sit here and say I wish it changed, wish it hadn’t happened, wish wish wish,” Michael said. “Obviously we wish this never would have happened. But having to look back that’s part of that recovery phase. And then once you get over it – once you accept it – then you’re thinking about it less and it’s affecting you less.”
Michael said the next steps in his recovery include working to strengthen his voice and undergoing a sixth bladder surgery.
The Gibsons are also working toward achieving a goal they had before the shooting: to expand their family. They say they have been attempting to undergo in vitro fertilization since January.
The couple is also taking part in the Reeve’s Foundation’s virtual 5K, which runs through Oct. 3. The Rail Pub in Savannah is also hosting an in-person 5K walk/run and fundraiser for the cause on Sept. 30 starting at 5 p.m.