Dr. Roberts and Family Updates

Dr. Roberts and Family Updates


From his parents, Jason and Keely Roberts
This week marked a very significant and special milestone in Cooper’s recovery, his slow yet remarkable transition back to school!  For a long time, we didn’t know if this day would ever come; a day where we were able to watch Cooper return, with his brother Luke, to school again.  The life-threatening nature of his injuries and the significant rehabilitation he has needed (and continues to need for hours every day) made it seem as though returning to school would be something we could only hope for way in the distant future.  Given his need to remain in day therapy each week, and the time required is constantly re-evaluated, Cooper’s transition back to school will be slow and gradual. Nevertheless, his return to school this week is an incredible milestone for a little boy who almost three months to the day of his first day of third grade had been desperately fighting for his life from critical gunshot wounds and is now wheelchair bound.  

It has been one of the most humbling and hopeful experiences of our lives to watch our precious 8-year-old who has had so much cruelly and violently ripped away from him -- his life needlessly and forever changed -- so cheerfully and excitedly count down the days leading to his return to school. Cooper is as aware as any little boy can be of the new challenges ahead of him at school and he is willingly facing them head-on to be reunited with the children and adults from his school whom he loves so dearly.  

The fear of how being paralyzed impacts him in his physical, social, and academic environment …  the anxiety about all of the countless unknowns he will encounter … the endless “what if” questions he thinks about … these run across his mind and ours literally all day long, like an endless reel of worry … these are some of the new realities for Cooper as he moves forward in his transition back home, back to school, back to a new life unlike anything he or we have ever faced.  We all are learning how to cope with these components of our new reality.   

We were so nervous we couldn’t sleep the night before his first day back. We cried in the parking lot as he wheeled himself into the school, cried as we pulled out of the parking lot…we were just a mess!  He loved every minute, and his exact words were “If I had not been shot, paralyzed, and had to be in a wheelchair, it would have been a perfect school day, but it was a really great day!  I loved it!”  We celebrated this milestone, and we celebrated Cooper for accomplishing something that he really wanted to accomplish. He has been so unbelievably brave and genuinely so overjoyed to return to school – it was a huge hurdle, and we pray his positive feelings can continue.

We have also learned, fast and hard, that we can only take one day at a time. There will be setbacks and disappointments. This journey we are on; Cooper, Luke, and our entire family, it is an uphill one.  Beyond the physical impact of the shooting, the impact of the trauma on all of us is always, always just below the surface; waiting to rear its ugly head. Cooper’s return to school is not without sadness and pain.  He is terribly sad about not getting to run around with his friends in the field at recess. He is heartbroken about not getting to play on the jungle gym, hang on the monkey bars, slide down the slide, swing on the swings, kick the ball. He can’t be there all day or even every day. He sees the things he cannot do. Yet, Cooper continues to affirm for us that his spirit, his soul, his “Cooperness” remains. The hideous, evil act did not take that from him because he won’t let it. He is always going to be more concerned about others than he is for himself, find the positive in any situation, still be “the sporty kid,” and will always love his family and friends fiercely. That is who Cooper has always been and that is who he still is.   

We continue to ask for your prayers for Cooper.  Without a shadow of a doubt, we believe that Cooper’s incredible story of survival against all odds and his continued story of healing is a result of the love and prayers he has received from so many people from around the world.  Cooper has a long, long road ahead of him in rehabilitation on his journey of recovery. We believe that Cooper’s story is just beginning and that he can, and will, show the world that there is no greater power in the world than the power of love.


An update from the Roberts family regarding Cooper's recovery: 

  • The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab team is seeing some patterns of behavior that may indicate some cognitive loss. Cooper wasn’t well enough or talking enough to notice these issues earlier while in the hospital. Therapists are seeing short-term memory loss, issues with word recovery, and loss of acuity around fine motor skills. They are doing a comprehensive neurological and psychological evaluation this week and working on new therapies.
  • The AbilityLab team is also working with us to think through the long-term needs for Cooper once he is able to go home – the assistive technologies he needs to help him with daily living and the house features necessary for a child who will grow with a pediatric spinal cord injury. It’s overwhelming to consider.
  • We remain grateful for every prayer, kind wishes, gift, donation, and especially the good moments when our family can be together.

Cooper is making some positive progress this week. Following is an update from the family: 

  • This week, we are happy to report that Cooper’s IV and PICC lines have been removed. He no longer requires IV pain medicine and antibiotics. 
  • In other good news, Cooper is no longer being fed liquids through an intravenous feeding tube and can now eat the foods he’s been cravings, like Lay’s dill pickle chips, Cheetos, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and extra Cheddar flavor-blasted Goldfish. (We are all so happy to see him eat – and will be working to get some fruits and vegetables back in the rotation!)
  • Removing all the tubes has been a huge mood booster for Cooper, to be able to eat some of his favorite foods and to start maneuvering his wheelchair better without the tubes getting in his way and causing him pain. His energy is coming back as he participates in a wheelchair race down the hallway at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab with his physical therapists. 
  • Cooper and his twin, Luke, really miss each other. COVID restrictions at the AbilityLab limit them to only a couple of hours once a week – the only time when the entire Roberts family can be together.
  • Cooper had a special visit today from former Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier, who continues his remarkable recovery from a spinal cord injury on the field in 2017. Cooper’s parents and Luke were also able to attend this visit. Ryan was transparent, authentic, genuine, and gracious in sharing insights with us about his path to recovery.
  • Many have asked us about Cooper’s prognosis and the answer is, we don’t know. Even 50 days past his injury, the doctors don’t know what he may get back and what limitations we will live with for his lifetime. We do know that we are infinitely grateful for his survival, and for the many kindnesses we continue to receive, including from all who are working to help Cooper and others impacted heal from this nightmare.
  • Thank you to all who have sent well-wishes,  prayers, gifts, and donations. 


Last week, the medical team at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab conducted a series of comprehensive assessments to determine the appropriate physical and occupational therapy to help Cooper regain strength and reach his maximum potential moving forward. Following is an update from the family: 

  • Due to continued swelling, the AbilityLab team was not able to fully complete a foundational American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale assessment to clearly determine the extent of Cooper’s injuries and his full prognosis moving forward. 
  • Cooper is participating in daily physical and occupational therapy at AbilityLab to help him regain strength and build mobility. The family is grateful to the AbilityLab team for their professionalism and commitment to helping him reach his fullest potential, while also being sensitive to his anxiety and trauma. 
  • It is expected that Cooper will remain at the AbilityLab for in-patient rehabilitation services for six to twelve weeks. Following that time, he will rejoin his twin brother Luke in third grade at Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park. This is a huge motivation for Cooper as he is excited to return to the classroom and see his friends. He will likely return to classes for half-days and continue to participate in long-term outpatient physical and occupational therapy at AbiiltyLab for the part of the day.
  • Cooper also remains under the care of physicians at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. He will be transported back there this week via ambulance so surgeons can check on his healing from previous surgeries, including a heart graft and esophageal tear repairs. 
  • Both Cooper and Luke are participating in private counseling and other mental health services to support their healing from the emotional and psychological trauma of the shooting. Cooper is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, including flashbacks that are disrupting his sleep. 
  • The Roberts family is seeking short-term rental housing that is ADA accessible for when Cooper can return home. They must explore options for long-term housing for their large family as the Roberts’ 100-year-old home in Highland Park cannot be reconfigured to accommodate his rehabilitation needs for home-based therapies. They also need a wheelchair-accessible vehicle to support their ability to transport Cooper daily once released from inpatient care. 

The family continues to be grateful for and humbled by the outpouring of prayers and support as they begin to process what will be needed for Cooper when he eventually is able to return home. 


After almost a month in pediatric intensive care (PICU) at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children's Hospital, yesterday, Cooper Roberts was transferred to the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago).

This week, the AbilityLab medical team will meet with Cooper and his family to conduct a series of comprehensive assessments and determine the appropriate physical and occupational therapy, as well as other rehabilitation and mental health services, to support Cooper in regaining his strength and reaching his maximum potential moving forward.

Cooper is eating solid food now, including one of his favorites, mac-and-cheese. He was also able to visit with his dog, George—a happy reunion for them both.

The family continues to feel all the prayers being sent their way and are grateful for and humbled by the outpouring of support as they begin to process what will be needed for Cooper when he eventually is able to return home. 

The family continues to be very grateful for and humbled by the outpouring of support and well wishes – including a special care package from the Milwaukee Brewers, Cooper’s favorite baseball team, which included a jersey with his name on it that really lifted his spirits. They ask for continued prayers for Cooper’s healing. 
  • Cooper is still in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). He was downgraded to serious condition briefly yesterday but moved back to critical based on the latest CT scan.
  • The scan showed that the concerning fluid in his pelvis is an abscess. The various medical teams (cardiac, thoracic, infectious disease, pediatrics) will confer today on the best approach to evacuate the fluid. 
  • The spiking fever has returned, off and on, likely due to this infection.
  • Some good news:  he was able to take some liquid by mouth for the first time yesterday, an orange popsicle, as the esophagus tear continues to heal from surgeries. He went outside yesterday for the first time since July 4, in his wheelchair.

  • Cooper is still in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and is considered in critical condition, but the family is hopeful he will be moved out of the PICU later this week
  • He has been fever-free for 48 hours
  • He is no longer on the ventilator and is breathing on his own
  • He sat up, with assistance, and took a brief first ride in a wheelchair over the weekend; sadly, something he will need to get used to. It was very difficult and emotional for him and his family.
  • The fluid in his pelvis remains concerning; he has an ultrasound planned for today to help the medical and surgical teams determine the next steps. 

The family of eight-year-old Cooper Roberts, who was shot and suffered a severed spinal cord among other injuries at the Highland Park, Illinois Independence Day parade, stated today that his situation is now critical.

They have provided these updates:

  • Cooper remains in critical condition following his seventh surgery Wednesday, July 13, to reclose the original bullet-induced tear in his esophagus.
  • When he woke up on Thursday morning, there were initially positive signs such as no fever and he was breathing over the ventilator.
  • As the day progressed, however, the spikes of high fevers, up to 104, returned.
  • A CT scan revealed fluid building in his esophagus, lungs and now around his pelvis.
  • As a result of the developments throughout the day, he remains on a ventilator and breathing tube. 
  • His mother, Keely Roberts, stated, “Please keep sending love and prayers to my son as he continues to fight as hard as he can.”

7/14/2022: Update from Zion District 6 Board President Ruth Davis
(English)  (Espanol)

7/12/2022: 7:00 pm
Today’s surgery to repair Cooper’s esophagus is complete. The doctors were able to find and close the leak. This is a good outcome—Cooper is still fighting! His condition is being closely monitored and the next days will be critical to ensure that he responds positively.

7/12/2022: 2:00 pm
The family of eight-year-old Cooper Roberts, who was shot and suffered a severed spinal cord among other injuries at the Highland Park, Illinois Independence Day parade, stated today that his situation is now critical.

They have provided these updates:

  • Cooper currently is spiking a fever and an elevated heart rate due to a new infection, which is being treated with medication.
  • Doctors have shared that one of his lungs is partially collapsed.
  • Yesterday’s esophagram procedure revealed that the tear in Cooper’s esophagus has reopened. As a result, he is facing an urgent, complex, and lengthy surgery today to again attempt to repair his torn esophagus. This is his seventh surgery and is of particularly high risk given his age and current condition.
  • The family greatly appreciates all prayers for his recovery.
It has been a very tough weekend for the Roberts family tending to their 8-year-old son, Cooper Roberts, who was shot and suffered a severed spinal cord among other injuries at the Highland Park, Illinois Independence Day parade. He is in a great deal of pain – physically and emotionally – especially as the family had to share with him the devastating news that he is paralyzed from the waist down. 

The family would like to provide these updates, some of which are new news after more thorough conversations with the heroic doctors and nurses who first cared for Cooper at Highland Park Hospital: 
• He is still in serious condition.
• He is scheduled for another procedure Monday to address damage to his esophagus.
• The bullet entered his abdomen, not his chest as originally believed. 
• From the doctors at Highland Park Hospital:  “Cooper sustained severe injuries, in a very perilous location. The bullet entered his upper abdomen, injuring the left lobe of his liver, his esophagus near the stomach, and his abdominal aorta, and exiting through his back injuring his spinal cord.  He required an emergent operation to control the bleeding in his abdomen. Because the missile entered just below the diaphragm, the muscle that divides the chest and abdomen, the bleeding from the aorta could not be controlled from the abdomen. We had to perform a thoracotomy, opening his chest in order to temporarily clamp his aorta to slow down the bleeding. Because the injury to the aorta was so severe, the injured segment had to be removed and replaced with a synthetic graft in an adult size so he can grow into it. The hole in the esophagus was sewed closed. The complex injury of his liver was also repaired. Because of the severity of his injuries and the massive amount of blood transfusions he required during the surgery, his abdomen was left open with a specialized vacuum dressing. At this point, his critical, life-threatening injuries had been addressed and he was stable enough to be transferred to University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital for continued care.”

The family wishes to acknowledge and thank the many, many people – emergency medics, police, fire department, nurses, and doctors at both hospitals -- who did extraordinary things to save Cooper’s life.  It was a true miracle. And to thank from the bottom of their hearts the thousands who have prayed, sent gifts, supported the family in myriad ways, and donated to the Go Fund Me campaign for Cooper’s long-term care:  https://gofund.me/06cc31e5 

7/9/2022: Moving forward, the family will provide biweekly updates on Cooper’s status on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 
● Cooper’s medical status has been upgraded to serious, which is a very positive development.
● He is conscious for the first time and has been removed from the ventilator but in a great deal of pain. At this time, the doctors do not believe that he suffered any brain damage or cognitive impact from the shooting.
● Cooper is asking to see his eight-year-old twin Luke and his dog George.
● It has been confirmed that Cooper is paralyzed from the waist down.

ESPN News Release: Brewers to honor Cooper Roberts Friday night

7/8/2022: Community Vigil for the Roberts family for healing and peace.

Beginning Friday, July 8th, and then daily (except Sundays) @ 10:14am at “Esther’s Well” (The Healing Well) on Zion near Port Shiloh Pool parking lot. 

7/7/2022: Update from Zion District 6 Board President Ruth Davis (English)  (Espanol)
GoFundMe : The Roberts Family Fundraiser
Sponsored By Georgette Topalis and Annie Loizzi

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