Jadiel Vasquez spent two and a half months as an inpatient at Connecticut Children’s and much longer as an outpatient recovering from a gunshot wound. He was just 15 years old when he was unintentionally shot inside his Hartford home in March 2021. Now, at age 17, Vasquez is sharing his story of determination and courage to thank the medical teams that cared for him and to raise awareness about firearm safety…

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“Nearly lost his life”

When Jadiel arrived at Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department that morning, his prognosis was grim. He had been shot once in the abdomen and the bullet caused devastating injuries.

“I’m just thankful that I had this great team around me to help me recover the way I did,” said Jadiel during an interview in Connecticut Children’s Family Resource Center, where he reunited with Dr. James Healy, a pediatric surgeon at Connecticut Children’s who operated on Jadiel that day and treated him throughout his lengthy recovery…

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“If you have a firearm, make sure you have a gun safe. And if you don’t have to use the gun, don’t take it out at all.”

Jackeline, Jadiel's Mom

“A firearm injury in a child is a devastating injury,” said Dr. Healy. “This was a single bullet and it caused injuries to multiple different organ systems, required multiple surgeries, and he nearly lost his life from this.”

The bullet took a path through part of Jadiel’s transverse colon and the first part of his small intestine, known as the duodenum, in two places. It damaged the inferior vena cava – the largest vein in the human body and the main vein in the abdomen – causing extensive bleeding. It also injured his ureter on the right side, which carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.

“At Connecticut Children’s, there are lots of good doctors and good staff,” said Jackeline Marrero, Jadiel’s mother. “I am so thankful for all of them.”

Despite extensive injuries, Jadiel survived due to the skill and collaboration of multiple teams. On the morning of the shooting, Dr. Healy and his team rushed to the trauma bay in Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department to await the arrival of the ambulance that transported Jadiel from his home. Jonathan Gates, MD, who is a vascular surgeon from Hartford Hospital, joined them in the operating room to help repair the injury to Jadiel’s vein.

Dr. Healy also collaborated with Dr. Courtney Rowe, a pediatric urologist at Connecticut Children’s, who treated the injury to Jadiel’s ureter. In addition, throughout his inpatient stay, Jadiel worked with a team of nurses, pain specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, massage therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and others.

“The ICU level care he got when he was here and all of the nurses and team members who cared for him through a fairly long admission are what saved his life,” stated Dr. Healy.

Jadiel with his Mom and Dr. Healy

“Help other people the way they helped me”

Now, more than two years after the shooting, Jadiel has made a complete and remarkable recovery.

“He’s doing really extraordinarily well,” stated Dr. Healy. “He has fully recovered from his injuries. He does not need long-term medications and doesn’t have any long-term disabilities.”

Jadiel is graduating from the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy in Hartford in June and plans to take college courses in the fall with the goal of becoming a nurse.

“This completely changed the entire trajectory of my life,” stated Jadiel. “Before, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was just sitting at home with no goals, no ambition. After this happened to me, just having this experience and talking to all the nurses and doctors, it made me realize that I want to become a nurse and help other people the way they helped me.”

Jadiel’s mother describes her son as responsible, honest, hardworking and humble. She recalls the impact that team members at Connecticut Children’s had on Jadiel during his inpatient stay.

“All of the nurses were good to him, especially the male nurses. When they treated Jadiel, they went into the room and talked to him. It was like therapy for him,” said Jackeline. “Because this accident was so hard for Jadiel, and because he got good treatment by the nurses, that inspired him to want to be a nurse and give others what he received here at Connecticut Children’s.”

Jadiel with his Mom and Dr. Healy

“The more we do for gun safety inside the home, the better”

As Jadiel moves beyond this tragedy, he and his family are sharing his story not only to thank the medical teams that cared for him, but to also raise awareness about the impact that unsecured guns in homes can have on children. 

“This could happen to anybody,” said Jadiel.

Connecticut Children’s, through its Injury Prevention Center, has long advocated for the safe storage of firearms through participation in an annual gun buyback program and other advocacy efforts. In addition, Connecticut Children’s recently teamed up with hospitals and health systems around the country in a nationwide public awareness campaign regarding safe gun storage.

“He was absolutely minding his own business when this happened and was inside his own home,” said Dr. Healy. “I think that when it comes to injuries inside the home, one of the key takeaway messages is that the more we do for gun safety inside the home, the better. Responsible gun ownership, part of doing that is securing your gun, storing ammunition apart from the gun, and in a locked box. That can help prevent accidental gun injuries at home.”

Jadiel looks forward to continuing to advocate for safe gun storage and knows he is lucky to be alive. He and his family are thankful for the care he received at Connecticut Children’s – care that allowed him to make a full recovery.

“Connecticut Children’s, we are so thankful for them. They are like angels,” said Jackeline. “Thank you for all that you did for Jadiel. Me and my family, we are so thankful.”

“I just want to say thank you for everything,” said Jadiel.