After the shooters fled the apartment, Tanya, following the instructions of a 911 operator, knelt on the side of Devon's head, covering the bullet hole with a towel and applying pressure. A pair of ambulance drivers from nearby Freemont, in the area for a burrito, heard the call and arrived at the scene before the police. "They saved his life," Linda explains. "They said they'd never seen that much blood."
As the ambulance drivers unloaded Devon at the hospital, one of them told the tattooed driver of another ambulance to check out the guy they just brought in. He figured maybe the two knew each other. They did. Devon had frequently tattooed the ambulance driver. The tatted-up driver quickly put a dazed but slightly conscious Devon through a series of sensory tests. Move your right hand. Move your left hand. What year is it? Through those responses, it was determined that the bullet hadn't left Devon paralyzed, information that would give his family hope when he later slipped into a coma. "Thank God for [those tests] or else I never could have made it through this," Linda says. "The driver quit after that. He couldn't handle it anymore."
At the hospital, Linda found Devon lying on a gurney in the emergency room hallway. "He looked at me and started screaming in pain. Then he passed out," she remembers. He wouldn't regain consciousness for a month.
Hospital administrators, worried that the shooters would arrive at the hospital to finished off Devon, checked him in under the code name "Realism 31." After a CT scan and an x-ray, doctors determined that Devon's brain was swelling to a dangerous size. Normally, surgeons drill a hole in the back of the skull to relieve the pressure. But the bullet lodged in the back of Devon's skull was dangerously close to his brain stem, the part of the brain that controls involuntary actions such as breathing and heart beating. Drilling would kill him. Instead, surgeons sawed off part of Devon's skullcap and sewed it inside his stomach to preserve it. Then they gave him medication to keep him in a coma while his brain healed.
While Devon was healing, Linda focused on keeping the energy in the room upbeat and positive. When an assistant to a neurosurgeon, convinced that Devon would never survive the coma, asked the room of family and friends if the tattooer had a living will, Linda flipped. "I lost it," she remembers, still visibly angry. "I dragged her out of the room and told her, ‘No negativity in this room. He will make it. He'll be fine.'"
Linda brought a boom box to the hospital and blasted Metallica ("Enter Sandman," she laughs.). Friends filled the room, often posing Devon's hand in devil-horns across his chest. As a tribute to the diamond tattoo below Devon's eye, friends and family—including all eight siblings and Linda—had diamonds tattooed somewhere on their bodies.
After 21 days, the swelling in his brain stopped, and doctors began backing Devon out of his coma in five-minute increments then testing his responses. Thumbs up. Thumbs down. Everything seemed okay. But Linda noticed something unusual. It seemed her right-handed son was now left-handed.