Dakota Mauldin and her family are wearing green ribbons this month in recognition of Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. “Brain injury is just a phrase until you have a face to put it with,” …
Dakota Mauldin and her family are wearing green ribbons this month in recognition of Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month.
“Brain injury is just a phrase until you have a face to put it with,” Mrs. Mauldin said. In her case, the face is that of her husband, Marcus. He was the victim of a random shooting in Birmingham last August.
Mauldin had picked up his wife from a gym at Hewitt Trussville High School. “I’d torn my ACL, and Marcus picked me up so I would have to stay there all day,” Mrs. Mauldin said.
They were on U.S. Interstate 20/59 near the airport exit and were on their way back to Jasper. A driver in front of them slammed on his brakes. The couple was in the middle lane, and the car that slammed on the brakes was in the left lane, according to Mrs. Mauldin.
This caused the traffic around and behind them to come to a stop, too. The sudden stop caused her icepack to fall into the floorboard. “Dang, people don’t know how to drive,” Mrs. Mauldin said.
She leaned down to retrieve her icepack, and her husband leaned over to assist her. “The next thing I knew there was an explosion,” she said. She thought something on the side of the road had exploded and blown the glass out of their car.
The shock knocked the glasses off her face. Bending down to retrieve them, she noticed she was covered in blood. Looking over, she saw her husband’s head bobbling with half of the bullet hanging out of it, according to Mrs. Mauldin. “I realized he’d been shot.” She did triage on her husband while they waited for emergency vehicles to respond.
The gunshot struck Mauldin in the right frontal lobe. This is the part of the brain that affects his decision making and impulse controls, according to Mrs. Mauldin. This area also controls the way his brain processes information. “It’s the part of the brain that makes you, you,” she said.
No one would notice unless they were with him all the time, according to Mrs. Mauldin. He has all his motor function and other things because they are controlled on the other side of the brain.
Mauldin was on short-term disability for three months before going back to work. The company has been phenomenal, according to Mrs. Mauldin.
“His impairment is more noticeable in the evenings when he gets home from his job at Marigold with the Drummond Company,” she said.
Six months later, Mauldin is doing better. “He still has a big bullet fragment along with smaller bullet and bone fragments in his brain,” she said.
The injury to her husband has changed their family dynamics. Sometimes when he’s having a hard time, he’ll go to bed and sleep for 24 hours without realizing it. “His brain has to reset itself so he can try to go again,” she said.
This incident has had a dramatic impact on the young family’s life. Her voice trembled as she explained, “I don’t like to go to new places anymore.” The random shooting resulted in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for Mrs. Mauldin.
“He doesn’t remember it like I do,” she said. She had to go to Birmingham a few days ago for an appointment for her leg. “I tried so hard to keep from having to go,” she remembered. She struggled with the decision to drive into Birmingham. “I cried and cried,” she said. She contemplated not getting her ACL fixed so she wouldn’t have to drive into the city.
“Marcus doesn’t handle Birmingham well either,” Mrs. Mauldin said. She almost panics when cars around her slam on their brakes.
Authorities think the shooting was random. There were several other shootings that day on and off the interstate and authorities are not sure if they were connected or not, according to Mrs. Mauldin. “They think we were just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
“It was a miracle that my kids weren’t with me because they are with me 95 percent of the time,” she said.
Some of the people there that day called in the tag number of the car they thought was involved, but the tag did not go with the description of the car. The tag and car were probably stolen.
Mrs. Mauldin wrote an open letter on her Facebook page to the City of Birmingham, imploring them to address gun violence. One paragraph of the open letter states, "Since August 18, 2018, gun violence speaks so loud to me. The unfortunate thing is, in just the five short months that this happened to my husband and our family, the gun violence hasn't slowed down one bit in YOUR city. Especially when it comes to innocent people like we were that day."
“The statistics on gun violence are ridiculous,” Mrs. Mauldin said. “There are always going to be people breaking the law, but there must be ways to help with this issue,” she said.
She thinks more cameras placed on the interstate and in high traffic areas might help. More police patrolling and doing roadblocks would also be helpful, according to Mrs. Mauldin. “There has to be something that can help limit this gun violence. Apparently, these criminals aren't scared enough of getting caught,” Mrs. Mauldin said.
She doesn’t feel that gun control is the answer. “Drugs are illegal, and they’re coming in like crazy,” she said. Society has to implement some rules that make people afraid to commit gun violence. “Even if someone gets caught on a first offense they should not just get a slap on the wrist,” she said. The likelihood is very high that these first-time offenders will do it again, according to Mrs. Mauldin. “There must be more repercussions so that they decide to use their fists rather than a gun,” she said.
Mrs. Mauldin grew up around guns. Her grandfather was a game warden. She learned to shoot when she was 6 years old with big ear protectors on. But her family drilled gun safety into her head.
She’s not against guns now, but she’s a lot more cautious since the shooting. She wants to raise awareness about gun violence, but until people with more authority weigh in, she doesn’t feel like her voice will be heard.