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Duriel Lyke’s Year of Recovery

Last Fourth of July weekend, 103 people were shot in Chicago in less than 108 hours—one of most violent stretches in city history. Here, the story of one of the 88 victims who survived.

Duriel Lyke hates funerals.

“I hate going and feeling that pain,” says the 29-year-old Calumet Park resident, whose father is a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

But on July 1 of last year, a Saturday, he got a call from a longtime friend imploring him to attend the funeral that morning of a mutual friend, Deshawn Boswell. Boswell, 26, had been shot dead in the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side.

“[Boswell] was a bucket boy,” Lyke  recalls. “He was like one of the original bucket boys downtown.”

Lyke, an administrative tax analyst for Cook County and a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, says he put on a white suit, left the south suburban house where he lived with his mother, and met his friends at a funeral home in the Washington Heights community on Chicago’s South Side.

He and other mourners tried their best to celebrate Boswell’s life, not just grieve their loss. There were bucket boys playing outside the funeral home. Lyke remembers, “we was gathered around, trying to just lift everybody up, taking pictures, and stuff like that.”

Next, the mourners proceeded to the burial site. “I was crying,” Lyke says. “Everybody was crying.”

After that, Lyke drove a handful of friends to Grand Crossing Park and played dice. They wanted to stay together to support one another and raise their spirits. But after a couple hours, police nearby shooed them away. So they went to another park on the South Side. Lyke can’t remember exactly where, but police there also told them to scram. Eventually they decided to head further south, to a lounge in Chatham. It was about 9 p.m., an hour before what Lyke calls “the accident.”

Lyke in the Calumet Park house where his grandmother used to live. Lyke was set to move into the house before he was shot, but has been staying with his mother since the injury. Things in the home are just the way he left them on the day before his shooting, he says.

“​This is where it gets kind of blurry,” Lyke says. “I got out of the car, and we were going to go into the building, but I had left something in the car.”

His hands are shaking now.

“I went back, and that’s when the shooting happened. I didn’t really see anything, didn’t really hear anything. They said it was three guys in a car. One of them was driving, and two of them were shooting. ​They hit me in the head, two times in the leg, and grazed my stomach. I really don’t remember anything past that.”

He does recall one thing quite distinctly, though he just isn’t sure what to make of it.

“I just remember one lady, and I’m not even sure if she was there or not. She had a green dress on. She kept telling me that I was going to be okay, that the police were coming, and I was going to be okay. I asked people later, ‘Was she real?’ They said they don’t think so. I’m not sure if that was an angel or what, but she definitely came. That’s the only person I really remember from the shooting.”

Lyke was in the hospital for 23 days, and doesn’t remember much of the first two weeks. “Cognitively, I haven’t been able to tell this story, because [up until now] I wouldn’t have been able to have a conversation,” he says. “I think it will be able to help somebody, because whatever life throws at you, you can always overcome it.”

Since last Fourth of July Weekend, Lyke says, “it’s been a new beginning for me. I don’t take things for granted. I could not be here. I take extra appreciation for things. Anything can happen to you anywhere.”

Surviving the shooting gave him newfound appreciation for his family, especially his mother and grandmother, who cared for him during his recovery, and especially for his eight-year-old son, Jaylen. “I love him from the bottom of my heart, man,” Lyke says. “[What if] I could not be here to watch him graduate from eighth grade, graduate from high school, from college.”

Another young black man with Lyke was shot in the foot but survived. Fifteen people were fatally shot that five-day holiday weekend in Chicago—between 4 p.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Wednesday—but another 88 were wounded and survived. That man with Lyke reportedly had gang ties, but Lyke, like many other bystanders hurt in the rash of shootings, didn’t. Lyke says he doesn’t know the other victim well, remember much about him, or have a clue if he was the shooters’ intended target. But Lyke got the worst of the carnage.

“They did two, three or more surgeries back to back,” he says. “They had to. My head was leaking. They said they were going to cut my leg off, but, thank god, they were able to find enough tissue to cover the leg.”

Lyke was in the hospital for 23 days. He doesn’t remember much of the first two weeks. Doctors kept him pretty drugged up, and his head wounds impaired his memory. But he remembers some family friends and friends of family who came to see him. His aunt came from Kentucky. Cousins came to the hospital to see him every day. His mom was there. So was a special friend of his dad’s.

“What’s his name? Reverend Jesse Jackson came to see me,” Lyke says. “The only thing I really remember, because I was still kind of a little drugged up, he was like, ‘When you get better, make sure you come and see me.’ He was just cool.”

Lyke wears a brace on his right leg, where the shooting left him with foot drop, dropping of the forefoot due to weakness. “They said they were going to cut my leg off, but, thank god, they were able to find enough tissue to cover [it].”

Lyke was connected to a feeding tube for several days and couldn’t eat on his own. The ordeal took a toll on his mother. She went days without eating herself.

In his last week at the hospital, Lyke began his rehab, what would be a long road to recovery. It included physical therapy, occupational training, and speech therapy. He had survived shots to the head, but not without a cost.

“I could have a pen in my hand, and know what it was in my head, but I couldn’t bring it out of me,” he says. “I knew it was a pen, but I couldn’t say it was a pen. I didn’t know what a pen or a stapler was. They had to teach me what these things were again. They said I was cursing a lot in [the hospital].”

Lyke continued rehab at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab downtown. He would arrive at 8 in the morning and leave at 3 p.m. He started off with an hour of speech therapy, an hour of occupational therapy, and an hour of physical therapy. And then he would take a lunch break before doing an hour of each again.

Lyke outside his grandma’s house.

His boss at the Cook County Board of Review told him not to worry about being let go: “Just get back to your normal self, and you’ve got your job,” Lyke was told. Slowly, Lyke gained confidence that he could return to work. But he wasn’t quite ready yet.

“I still had trouble with certain things,” he says. “Even now, I still do, like certain memory problems and stuff like that.”

The shooting also took away his ability to drive, because of damage to his right leg. “That’s my driving leg,” he says. “I was on a walker. They just recently got me a brace for my right leg to keep the foot up, because I had drop foot, where my foot would just hang to the ground. Now I have a brace on my leg that helps me move around, because I still haven’t gotten my motor skills back in my foot.”

When Chicago first spoke to Lyke in late January, he was awash in optimism and hope for the future. He was a week away from returning to his job and awaiting a driving test to determine whether he had the range of motion, visual processing, and motor skills to operate a car safely. He had also turned a corner in his recovery that allowed him to finally speak in detail about his ordeal.

“I think that cognitively I haven’t been able to tell this story, because previous to this, I wouldn’t have been able to really have a conversation with you,” he says.  “I just think this story will be able to help somebody, because whatever life throws at you, you can always overcome it. You can always jump that hurdle, no matter what God gives you or life gives you. All you have to do is be positive.”

Lyke works as a tax analyst for the Cook County Board of Review. After he was shot, Lyke’s boss told him, “Just get back to your normal self, and you’ve got your job.”

In the end, Lyke passed his driving test, and he finally went back to work in mid-February. He spends a lot of his down time with his son, who plays Little League baseball.

He doesn’t need to go to physical therapy anymore, and his speech is clear now. But there’s a huge scar that runs down Lyke’s right leg. Lyke is still putting the pieces of his life back together. And he’s still dealing with the consequences of gun violence in Chicago.

On July 1, 2018, just like last year, Lyke was mourning the loss of another young black man. “Hey, sorry for me being unavailable,” he wrote in a text when Chicago called Sunday for a final interview before publishing this story. “My homie got shot on the same block I got shot on the other day so I’ve been dealing with that all night.”

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