PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Family members say 10-year-old Semaj O’Branty is awake in the hospital more than a month after he was shot in the head while walking home from school in Frankford. Semaj unwillingly became a symbol of the epidemic of children and gun violence when he was caught in the crossfire.
A close family friend says Semaj opened his eyes three days ago but fully regained consciousness on Friday.
It’s been a painful month and one week for Semaj’s family and friends.
“We were very afraid that he would not wake up,” close family friend Cheri Honkala said.
The 10-year-old boy was shot in the head while walking home from school on Nov. 6. Police say the drug-related shooting happened on the 2200 block of Margaret Street in Frankford.
Semaj was an innocent bystander and had been in a coma since that afternoon.
“Today was like the best Christmas miracle that anybody could ask to have happened. That 10-year old boy woke up,” Honkala said.
Close family friend Cheri Honkala says Semaj can only move the left side of his body. He can’t talk and has not been told what happened to him early last month.
“He knows who everybody is in the room. He’s using hand signals so that’s exciting,” Honkala said.
Honkala says Semaj will remain in the hospital for at least the next 11 weeks and then he will have to continue rehab for the foreseeable future.
“It’s going to be a different journey now. We’re going to be looking for wheelchairs, accessible housing,” Honkala said.
Semaj is one of at least 110 children and teenagers injured or killed by gun violence this year alone in Philadelphia.
His improved condition is not being taken for granted by his loved ones.
“Like many of the other parents in Philadelphia this last year, where they have had to prepare to have their first Christmas without somebody they love. We don’t at all take that lightly,” Honkala said. “We’re not having to deal with a funeral, we’re having to deal with being joyful for the holidays that he’s alive.”
Police have not made any arrests in the shooting.
Semaj’s family has created a GoFundMe page to help with hospital expenses. Click here if you would like to donate.