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Parrom knew his mom had cancer but had no idea how serious her situation was. "She said once you do the chemo, it'll all be gone, and I believed it," says Parrom. "My mother was so good at hiding stuff." On Sept. 19, Lisa texted Miller to say her cancer had taken a bad turn. Could Kevin come back to New York City for a visit?
He arrived at JFK early on the morning of Sept. 23 and rode with his father to Einstein Hospital in the Bronx. After 10 hours at the hospital, he promised his mom he'd return the next morning.
Parrom left the hospital in anguish. He retreated to his dad's apartment, desperate to talk to somebody. Kenny had to leave for the night shift at Con Ed, where he worked as a cable rigger. Kenny Jr. was in an upstate prison serving a five-year term for drug possession. So Parrom called a woman he had known since childhood and invited her over to talk. "She was one of the few friends from around there that I could connect to," says Parrom. "But she had a jealous boyfriend."
Parrom and the woman had been talking for about 30 minutes in the living room when two men he didn't know kicked open the front door. Parrom ran into his father's bedroom and tried to lock the door, but they kicked that in too. When one of the intruders pulled out a pistol, Parrom grabbed at it and pointed it down. The assailant fired five or six shots. One bullet grazed the inside of Parrom's left hand, leaving a path of shredded flesh across his palm and fingers. Another entered the lower side of his right thigh, above and to the side of his knee, before shattering into fragments that traveled into his hamstring. "I didn't feel anything," says Parrom. "My leg went straight into shock." The two men fled. The woman had already escaped. Parrom stumbled to the phone and called 911.
Paramedics took him to Lincoln Hospital, where he stayed for two days before hobbling out on crutches and getting on a plane for Arizona. His morning appointment with his mother had come and gone. When she had called his cellphone, Parrom let it ring. It was his turn to lie to protect her; he asked family members to tell Lisa he had to return to school for an urgent team meeting.
Back in Tucson team trainer Justin Kokoskie faced a number of concerns with Parrom, including the possibility of infection and of nerve damage in both the right leg and the left hand. "If the bullet had been a millimeter lower he wouldn't have had any function in his hand," says Kokoskie, who gathered a team of medical experts, from trauma surgeons to a pedorthist who designs leg braces, to help in Parrom's recovery. "You can never put a time frame on nerve pain and damage. Will the feeling return in weeks, months, years?"
After the wound healed and feeling started to return to Parrom's upper leg, he walked on an underwater treadmill and did exercises with weights. Feeling in his foot was much slower to return, but with the help of braces he was able to jog and practice his shooting.
A few weeks after the shooting, Parrom was called back to New York to identify his assailant and testify before a grand jury. (On Feb. 1 of this year, Jason Gonzalez, 21, whom Parrom identified as the man accompanying the jealous boyfriend, pleaded guilty to attempted murder; sentencing is scheduled for March 8.) The trip gave him one more chance to see Lisa, who still didn't know he had been shot—and would never know. Lying in a hospital bed in a morphine fog, the cancer having spread to her lungs and brain, she was incoherent but for three screamed words that seared themselves into Parrom's memory: "Pray for me!"
Distraught, Parrom initially refused to fly back to Arizona. Jones, who had been at Lisa's side through all 36 of her chemotherapy treatments, told him his mother would want him to go back to school. Parrom got on the plane.
After his mom's death on Oct. 16, 2011, Parrom says, he had days when he didn't want to get out of bed. He wore a picture of Lisa on a chain around his neck and listened to saved phone messages from her, including ones where she yelled at him to "Stop procrastinating on that essay!" or "Pick up the damn phone!"