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She was playing kickball when she was hit by a stray bullet. Now she's 36, paralyzed, and reclaiming her independence

Anna Orso and Jessica Griffin, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

"My heart is broken," Prima said. "I'm better than I was May 19th. But my heart will always be broken. It will never be the same."

Lyons knows her family is changed, and that her friends, some of whom watched her get shot, have experienced layers of trauma different from her own. She tries to put on a brave front and smile as much as she can, flashing what her mother calls "the deepest dimples you will ever see."

In the quieter moments, the facade crumbles. For the first few months, Lyons broke down in tears every time a friend or family member left the apartment. She said her husband is the only one who has really seen through the strong exterior to the agony and depression.

Together, they have committed to taking on the future in small increments — it's easier to think about the day-to-day, or week-to-week, than face the overwhelming notion of what life will be like by the time she's 40, or 60, or 80.

So they find wins where they can. Sometimes that means going out to a brewery or making it through an entire Eagles game without having to leave feeling anguished. Sometimes it just means getting out of bed.

This fall, Lyons returned to work, teaching a slate of occupational therapy classes at Thomas Jefferson University.

And in early October, she sat on a blanket in Fairmount Park all day and watched her old kickball team, the Bayside Ballers, play together again for the first time since the shooting. Lyons' family came, and some sipped on a beer called "Angry Amanda," named after Lyons and brewed at a bar near Hancock Playground.

 

Several of her friends spouted off statistics about gun violence from Everytown's website that they've committed to memory, like that the group's research shows 58% of American adults, or someone they care for, have experienced gun violence.

An acquaintance asked Lyons about her prognosis without saying what so many have wondered: Will she walk again? She tells them that she has some sensation in her legs, a sign of progress, and that she knows several months into a spinal cord injury is nothing in the grand scheme of how long they can take to heal.

"You never know what could happen," she said.

As the sun started to set, Lyons had to lie down on the grass and close her eyes, overwhelmed by the people, noise, and pain.

But it was the longest amount of time she'd been away from a couch in months. And so, like the Bayside Ballers who prevailed in the tournament, Lyons took the win.

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