'You came back, son': mom tells of son's miracle recovery after being shot by dad

By admin
19 April 2012

The beeping heart monitor is the only thing breaking the silence in the hospital room where 17-year-old JP Abreu lies with two gaping gunshot wounds in his head.

The life support machines have been turned off – they were just postponing the inevitable, doctors said.

JP in hospital after his dad shot him and his elderly grandparents. PHOTO: Supplied JP in hospital after his dad shot him and his elderly grandparents. PHOTO: Supplied

Then his mom, Mary-Ann McCarter (37), talks to her son for the last time. She tells him how much she loves him, that he’ll be going to a better place and how she has agonised over advice that she shouldn’t delay his inevitable death.

Mary-Ann
Over and over she apologises to JP, her only child – because she was supposed to protect him. Every time she closes her eyes she relives the tragic events of a few hours ago: when her partner, Filipe da Silva Abreu (41), locked her in the bedroom and the sound of the first gunshot rang out.

As she helplessly hammered against the door to be let out a second shot rang out, then a third. Perhaps Filipe was just shooting at the ceiling to vent rage and frustration. It went quiet. Then he unlocked the door, looked at her and said, “I’m sorry.”

She ran for her life,not realising she was leaving a scene of carnage. Filipe’s elderly father, Fernando, was dead in his bed and his mother, Alzira, would die on the way to hospital. His son, JP, was alive, just barely. While she was frantically seeking help, Filipe put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

A copy of the Lord’s Prayer was later found near his body: “Forgive us our trespasses . . . and deliver us from evil.”

JP with mom Mary-Ann. PHOTO: Supplied JP with mom Mary-Ann. PHOTO: Supplied

Filipe had delivered himself from some private hell but Mary-Ann’s ordeal had just begun. At the hospital doctors advised her to turn off JP’s life-support. As shock and sadness threatened to overwhelm Mary-Ann she tried her best to reassure JP. Through her tears she begged for forgiveness for not having foreseen the events.

Then she said her goodbyes and went home with her minister to try to make sense of the horrific events that seemed to have claimed four lives in a single day. But three hours later she got the call: JP was still hanging in.

That telephone call was the first in a series of miracles, Mary-Ann says. Today, in the Life Springs Parkland Clinic on the East Rand, we’re witnessing it for ourselves. It’s exactly one month since the family murder in Springs, Gauteng – and JP is giving a thumbs-up to show us and his mom how he’s doing.

JP’s grandmother Alzira, mom Mary-Ann, JP, dad Filipe and grandfather Fernando were a tight-knit family before the tragedy. PHOTO: Supplied JP’s grandmother Alzira, mom Mary-Ann, JP, dad Filipe and grandfather Fernando were a tight-knit family before the tragedy. PHOTO: Supplied

A monitor indicates his heart rate is increasing from 70 to 85 beats a minute. With some effort he blows us kisses. He’s still in intensive care and is a shadow of the handsome lad who used to charm people with his warmth and personality. But his recovery in the past few weeks has been miraculous, Mary-Ann says. He can already write notes to her.

He’s had three operations so far. The first was to remove a section of his skull, some brain tissue and crushed bone near his right eye. The bullet entered his forehead near his right eye and exited through the back of his head. The procedure has left his face slightly

distorted.

The second op was to remove dead brain tissue and he was placed in an induced coma to speed up his recovery. A week before our visit JP was again in the operating theatre so tubes could be removed.

Mary-Ann is overcome by all the good news: fears of infection have proved unfounded, the fluid on JP’s brain has quickly cleared and doctors believe he could soon be discharged and begin rehabilitation.

JP was a keen sportsman before the tragic shooting. PHOTO: Supplied JP was a keen sportsman before the tragic shooting. PHOTO: Supplied

But the long-term consequences of his injuries are not known. Given the sections of the brain that were injured, JP’s memory, numerical skills and personality will more than likely be affected. He might suffer epilepsy and mood disturbances for a long time.

“It’s not something I’m worrying about right now,” Mary-Ann says before she’s distracted by JP’s right hand which is moving again.

She keeps stroking him and holding his hand. When she thinks he might want to say something she’s ready with pen and paper. The tubes in JP’s throat mean he can’t talk yet but he can write.

“I love my mommy to bits,” was the first note he wrote. He sent a similar message to his grandmother, Gladys, Mary-Anne’s mom.

He has managed to sit up in a chair and often throws a ball at a wall. It’s a step closer to the old JP who “played every ball sport”.

His dream before the shooting was to play soccer overseas after school.

The first thing he asked for was his cellphone, Mary-Ann says with a laugh. He also asked after his many friends, relatives and

fellow members of the Springs Methodist Church, who have been keeping a daily vigil outside his room.

Friends regularly visit the hospital to offer their support and to pray for the family with JP’s grandmother Gladys McCarter (left) and Reverend Scott Manning (second from right). PHOTO: Supplied Friends regularly visit the hospital to offer their support and to pray for the family with JP’s grandmother Gladys McCarter (left) and Reverend Scott Manning (second from right). PHOTO: Supplied

Those supporting him have been doing what they call “Bluetooth prayers”. They press their hands against the walls of his room and the operating theatre so the “signals” of their prayers will reach him through bricks and mortar.

Their prayers have been answered time and again, Reverend Scott Manning says.

JP is a Sunday school teacher in his congregation.

“He’s the best preacher there is. He hasn’t said a word yet but has already changed so many people’s lives.”

Unanswered questions about that terrible day still haunt Mary-Ann.

On Saturday 3 March the house was filled with relatives. Filipe’s elderly mother, Alzira, was leaving for Australia to visit her daughter and everyone had come to say goodbye. Her bags were packed for the flight. Late that night only Mary-Ann and Filipe were still awake. He was in the lounge and she was tidying up and getting ready for bed.

“The next thing I remember is the bedroom door locking behind me.” She says she almost died of fright when she heard the

shots. Filipe shot JP, Alzira and Fernando in their beds.

When he opened the door Mary-Ann saw JP’s bloodied body out of the corner of her eye and fled the house to get help. She recalls Filipe taking aim at her but he didn’t fire. She’s convinced he wanted to kill her too. Filipe was an extremely proud man who took good care of his family and parents, she says. “He never asked for help; he always helped others. I think he also felt responsible for his parents.”

The two bottle stores he owned weren’t doing as well as they had done because of the recession. But every day Filipe would

write out the Lord’s Prayer, never revealing anything was wrong.

Mary-Ann worked at his side in the business every day but didn’t realise anything was amiss. Even now she can’t recall any

warning signs. There was no family strife that could have led to the murders. Filipe had a good relationship with their son. He worked hard but always made time to go fishing, play sport or watch movies with her and JP.

“He was a good man,” Mary-Ann says,her lips trembling.

Sometimes she resents him. “Why couldn’t he just have done it to himself?” But mostly she has nothing bad to say about the love of her life and the father of her son.

“I still love him very much.”

She’s dreading the moment JP starts asking questions. She doesn’t know if he remembers it was his father who shot him. He hasn’t yet asked about Filipe. She firmly believes that JP’s late dad and grandparents are looking down on him from heaven and protecting him, Mary-Ann says.And that he will recover.

Reverend Manning has started a fundraising campaign for JP, who doesn’t have medical aid. He says primary school learners are donating their tuckshop money and total strangers are giving support through the Facebook group “Pray for JP Abreu”. With the help of her friends and relatives, Mary-Ann has been able to pay off R500 000 of the mounting medical bills.

The accounts are still streaming in and JP’s rehab hasn’t even begun.

“There’s one thing I know more than ever before: God is great. Now we’re taking it one

day at a time.”

-- Herman Scholtz

UPDATE: ‘They told my mom I wouldn’t survive – now I have my matric’

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