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McGRATH: After year of rehab, Leo shooting victim has made big strides

Classmates gather together with Miles Turner for group phoLeo High School prom held Holiday Inn by Midway International Airport Chicago

Classmates gather together with Miles Turner for a group photo at the Leo High School prom held at the Holiday Inn by Midway International Airport, Chicago, on Friday, May 3, 2013. | Ting Shen~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 12, 2013 8:43PM

Miles Turner V graduated from Leo High School in June. But when the Lions honor their fourth-year football players before their Senior Night game Friday against Bishop
McNamara, Miles will be included.

For reasons beyond his control, the offensive lineman with quick feet and an easygoing attitude had to miss Leo’s 2012 Senior Night celebration. On the night it took place, he was fighting for his life in the intensive-care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. One week earlier, Miles had been shot five times and left for dead when he tried to extricate his cousin from an altercation with gang members around the corner from his home near 63rd and Rhodes on the South Side.

Miles’ cousin, 17-year-old Modell McCambry, took two slugs to the chest and died en route to Stroger Hospital. Miles, thankfully, was taken to Northwestern Memorial, where emergency-room personnel saved his life. He would spend nearly three months at Northwestern, much of it in a medically induced coma. After another two months in a West Side wound-care facility, Miles entered the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to begin the arduous process of learning to walk again. Bone and bullet fragments lodged at the base of his spine robbed
him of movement and strength in his legs.

He was using a wheelchair when he attended his senior prom on the day he was discharged from RIC in mid-May. Three weeks later, there wasn’t a dry eye in the church at St. Margaret of Scotland as Miles rolled himself up the aisle to receive his diploma — to a rousing standing ovation — at Leo’s graduation ceremony.

Full disclosure: I was among those sniffling. I work at Leo, and the courage the Turner family has demonstrated during its ordeal has affected us deeply.

Miles survived, so he doesn’t count among the 435 victims who died of gunshot wounds in Chicago last year. But the collateral damage — millions in medical bills, profound changes to his family’s way of living, the knowledge that his own life probably has been altered forever — is incalculable.

Self-pity, though, never has been part of the family dynamic, even as Miles’ dad, Miles IV, takes unpaid days off from his city library job to get his son to his therapy sessions.

‘‘We’re moving forward,’’ Mr. Turner told me last week. ‘‘We’re just glad he’s still with us. He’s a fighter. He’s getting there.’’

No one is in custody for the shooting. Police liked a suspect they had detained in another killing several weeks ago, but they couldn’t bring charges without a positive identification. The 17-year-old still is walking the streets.

‘‘I couldn’t help them,’’ Miles said. ‘‘It was dark, and it happened so fast. I didn’t see who did it.’’

The incident was a story for a news cycle or two, but then it faded. That’s how it is with street violence — too easily dismissed as an inner-city problem. Atrocities like the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton or the Cornell Square Park shooting spree that maimed 3-year-old Deonta Howard horrify us for a while, and the gangsters lay low until the heat dies down. Then they go back to shooting each other.

We wail, curse and wring our hands each time an innocent bystander wanders into the line of fire, but until we address it as our problem and do something to halt the ridiculously easy access to guns here, urban terrorism will continue.

Miles spent the summer as an intern in Gov. Quinn’s office, traveling downtown to the Thompson Center each day to turn raw data into charts and graphs for an anti-violence project. He plans to study computer applications, with a career goal of becoming a video-game designer.

He has put college studies on hold for now to concentrate on his rehab — three outpatient sessions per week at RIC — and remaster getting dressed, tying his shoes and other simple tasks of living he took for granted until a year ago.

‘‘I’m in a pretty good place,’’ Miles told me. ‘‘I figure I got a second chance at life, and I’m going to make the most of it.’’

His goal is to discard his wheelchair ‘‘before the snow comes.’’ He has made so much progress in recent therapy sessions that his family is confident he will walk again.

He has a long way to go, but to see Miles now, compared with where he was a year ago, is to believe in miracles.

Which we do at Leo.

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