Some would say that it’s a parent’s job to protect their child, but Joey Slaight’s mother did the opposite – the unthinkable. She fired a gun at him from point-blank range, but the eight-year-old also did something unexpected. He left the hospital three years after she pulled the trigger.
Slaight’s mother, Morgan, grew up in Wisconsin but spent many years in Oklahoma with her husband. When their relationship ended, she and her sons, Joey and his younger brother Jaxon, moved back to the Badger State.
According to authorities, Morgan was recovering from a methamphetamine addiction. She also threatened to commit suicide on December 22, 2014, at which point she was hospitalized. A day after her release from treatment, she turned a gun on herself – after she shot both of her sons.
On January 2, 2015, she shot six-year-old Jaxon, who quickly succumbed to his wounds. Morgan also shot herself and was to pass away days afterwards. But her eldest son would put up a much longer fight.
Slaight had been shot close to his left eye, and doctors at the University of Wisconsin hospital had not known how the eight-year-old would recover from the injury to his frontal lobe, according to neurological experts who spoke to the Wisconsin State Journal.
In fact, they believed the trauma would make it impossible for young Slaight to be a “functional person” ever again – they also classified him as a “goner.” But the young boy was going to prove them wrong.
First, Slaight had to survive a risky surgery. In his recovery from the procedure, he didn’t move at all for six weeks. But then a sheriff came to visit him in his hospital room – and Slaight squeezed his hand.
From there, things turned even more incredible. Just days after reaching out to the sheriff, Slaight started singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” But none of that compared to the progress he had made by the time the one-year anniversary of his injury rolled around.
At that time, Slaight had made incredible strides. He could complete puzzles and play video games, and he spoke in complete sentences. He was even running around and jumping. The family members who had supported him along the way found his advances exciting.
Slaight’s aunt Andra Munoz – who had become his guardian – told WMTV, “He’s improving in all the areas we were concerned about in the beginning, like verbally, and physically, and his emotions, and his balance, all of that.”
At that time, Munoz also said Slaight was “setting all kinds of new records and the sky’s the limit.” Then, in February 2016, he was able to move from the hospital in Wisconsin to one in Bethany, Oklahoma, which was closer to his family.
As Slaight continued to improve, his aunt set up a Facebook page called Joey Strong, where she could keep everyone informed regarding his progress. Although many people were undoubtedly impressed by the boy’s will to survive – and thrive – Slaight’s neurosurgeon was very emotional over his patient’s success.
Dr. Joshua Medow performed the surgery on Slaight and did so when other doctors questioned the procedure’s ability to help the boy recover. Medow admitted that he almost cried when he found out that Slaight had grabbed someone’s hand weeks after the operation.
But Medow only took a little bit of credit for his handiwork. “I don’t believe that physicians save lives. I believe that’s God’s work. But I think we all have the ability to make lives better,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal.
For Medow and the rest of Slaight’s supporters, even better news would come on March 31, 2018. Munoz wrote on the Joey Strong Facebook page, “After 38 months and 29 days, Joey is coming home! This boy has fought, scraped, clawed and willed his way to recovery.”
In her post, she acknowledged everyone who had supported her nephew throughout his three years of recovery. “We just want everyone to know how your prayers have moved mountains,” Munoz wrote.
For Slaight, though, the promise of normality was what had him grinning as he left the hospital. “As we all said our goodbyes to the staff who have become family at this neurological rehabilitation facility, Joey smiled and simply said, ‘I am going home, finally.’”
Of course, a lot had changed in the three years since Joey had left home. Consequently, Munoz also reached out to supporters for clothes, toys and other donations that would help him transition into life as a pre-teen. “He left us as an eight year old and is coming home as an 11 year old,” she wrote.
Munoz also set up a GoFundMe page, where she sought $20,000 to help refurbish her home with the equipment and furniture that Slaight would need. So far, she’s raised nearly $12,000 to make the place more accessible.
And although he lost his mother and his brother on the night of the shooting, Slaight could eventually be back home with his immediate family. His father Tyler was a recovering addict at the time of his son’s hospital release but reportedly hoped to get custody of his son in the future.