SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts

FL shooting revives Vegas survivors' trauma

The Florida school shooting brought back painful memories to survivors of the mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert, which left 58 people dead. Survivors are sharing how their lives changed with CNN's Sara Sidner.

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 5:32 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 6:09 AM

Just one bullet.

It shattered Chelsea Romo's left eye. It nearly blinded her right.

It exploded inside her head. It caused two hematomas that physically shifted the position of her brain.

Shrapnel exploded throughout her skull and face. So much that it clogged a machine doctors later used to suck out the debris.

That single high-velocity bullet was among 1,100 others fired by the Las Vegas gunman who attacked the crowd at a country music festival five months ago.

It did exactly what a round fired by an AR-15 was intended to do: inflict maximum damage. Rounds from similar guns caused the brutal physical wounds suffered by victims in Las Vegas, a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and a school in Parkland, Florida. It is why the AR-15 and similar rifles are again at the forefront of today's student-led debate about whether some guns simply should not be available to civilians.

For Chelsea Romo, that single bullet altered her body and life forever.

Shrapnel is still inside her, creating hard gray spots under the skin of her face and her scalp. Periodically, pieces come to the surface and can be picked out.

But just the fact that she's alive means so much. Romo had three surgeries in 10 days to begin repairing the damage. Screws were put in her cheek. Her cornea was sutured shut.

The 28-year-old mother of a 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl thought she would never get to see them again.

"I've thought about as my daughter grew up and not seeing her get married or seeing her become a woman and seeing her face as she matures," Romo says.

But Romo has experienced what her eye doctors repeatedly tell her is a miracle. Her left eye is an empty socket. But with the help of a hard lens she must put in and pop out each day, the sight in her right eye is getting better.

Total blackness to a blurry light

Romo doesn't remember the gunshot that changed her life. She was standing in the front row at the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas on October 1 when the gunfire started and her friend told her to duck.

Romo held the left side of her face as she turned to her friend.

"I can't see," Romo told her. Everything was orange.

After that, it was total blackness for a week.

She slipped in and out of consciousness and heard doctors talk about a fractured this, a fractured that.

And then a little light returned.

"I remember the exact moment when they took the goggles off and I saw the doctor in front of me. It was the first time I saw anything in a week and to me it was just a relief," Romo recalls. "Even if it was horrible vision, at least I could see something. It wasn't black anymore."

She returned home to California and the love and support of family and friends who never left her side. Who leaned her over the side of her bed to wash her hair when she couldn't. Who painted her nails and tried to cheer her up. Who refused to leave her alone when she didn't want company.

Now, she seems incomprehensibly upbeat. She makes jokes about her injury. It's how she copes, because she knows this is her new normal. She wants her children to see what thriving, not just surviving, looks like.

She refuses to stay in the "dark place" where little things like not being able to find the shampoo made her feel inadequate.

Still, she remembers the first time she looked at her eye injury in December after having covered it with bandages, pulling her long flowing blond hair to the side.

"It freaked me out at first," Romo says. "It was devastating, but I'm like, it's gonna get better, it has got better and I'm still here."

She parts her hair on the other side now to cover the missing eye. Multiple surgeries lie ahead as she and her doctors work to get her a prosthetic.

She focuses on that future and on her children. She is more thankful than ever now for the moments of light and joy in her life.

Thankful for the kindness and caring shown by her 5-year-old, Gavin, as he clears her path and holds her hand to guide her.

Staying strong, when he tells her he is afraid she will be hurt again. Romo keeps her mindset focused on the fact that she is still here. She is alive. She can hug her kids, and now, out of one eye at least, see them.

Another bullet, another life shattered

With so many bullets fired that night, Chelsea Romo is far from alone.

It was another single bullet among the thousand-plus in Las Vegas that hit Rosemarie Melanson in the chest and then ricocheted through her body, tearing apart nearly everything it touched.

It entered above her breast then broke a rib and pierced her lower right lung. It kept going to the place where the esophagus connects to the top of the stomach, her husband, Steve, recounts. It went through the back of her stomach and through her spleen and took a third of her liver out.

"And then she's still full of shrapnel," Steve Melanson says.

She spent more than 100 days in the hospital, fighting for her life, before doctors thought she could be released and go home. But her injuries were so excruciating, she was back in the hospital again just two days later. She's still there now, too sick to talk, unable to even keep tea down.

For her daughter, Paige, who was at her side at the concert and now in the Trauma Center at Las Vegas' University Medical Center, it's time for action. Action on behalf of Vegas' 58 dead and those before and since, and for all the wounded, including the Parkland students.

"After the Las Vegas shooting they said it's not the right time to talk about that. After the Texas shooting, they said it's not the right time to talk about guns. After Parkland, let them grieve. It's not the time," she rattles off attacks and responses.

"When is it going to be the time? Because clearly, us in Vegas, we've had our grieving period ... we're moving on. We're ready to talk about it, but in the meantime you've had Texas, you've had Parkland. When is going to be the right time?"

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48626

Reported Deaths: 2717
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11723689
Lake5212244
Elkhart332051
Allen2815132
St. Joseph198168
Cass16399
Hamilton1596101
Hendricks1414100
Johnson1288117
Porter73637
Tippecanoe7279
Madison66364
Clark66044
Bartholomew58944
Howard58057
LaPorte57926
Vanderburgh5706
Kosciusko5564
Marshall4926
Noble48428
Jackson4723
LaGrange4719
Delaware45050
Boone44943
Hancock44935
Shelby43025
Floyd38244
Morgan32931
Monroe30128
Montgomery29720
Grant29526
Clinton2892
Dubois2836
Henry28016
White26510
Decatur25532
Lawrence24625
Vigo2368
Dearborn23323
Warrick22129
Harrison21622
Greene19032
Miami1842
Jennings17612
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess14717
Wayne1426
Orange13523
Perry1359
Steuben1302
Franklin1268
Ripley1227
Jasper1212
Wabash1132
Carroll1102
Fayette1017
Newton9910
Whitley965
Starke933
Gibson872
Randolph804
Huntington782
Wells751
Jefferson722
Fulton711
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey440
Spencer411
Blackford392
Brown391
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton311
Switzerland270
Martin230
Parke230
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 58904

Reported Deaths: 2970
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10587431
Cuyahoga8048379
Hamilton6158204
Lucas2788303
Marion273439
Pickaway220141
Summit2175207
Montgomery213431
Mahoning1849238
Butler163747
Columbiana130660
Stark1133113
Lorain105167
Trumbull97473
Warren88124
Clark7729
Delaware58815
Fairfield58516
Tuscarawas56810
Belmont55422
Medina53632
Lake50819
Licking49612
Miami47231
Portage44959
Ashtabula43644
Wood43651
Clermont4226
Geauga40843
Wayne36352
Richland3475
Allen32341
Mercer2879
Greene2769
Darke25326
Erie24622
Holmes2393
Huron2232
Madison1999
Ottawa15024
Sandusky13714
Crawford1365
Washington13520
Ross1303
Putnam12915
Coshocton1272
Hardin12312
Morrow1171
Auglaize1074
Jefferson912
Monroe8917
Union891
Muskingum861
Hancock791
Hocking788
Preble781
Guernsey743
Lawrence720
Williams722
Shelby694
Clinton680
Logan641
Athens631
Fulton620
Ashland601
Carroll593
Wyandot595
Brown581
Knox521
Defiance513
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto450
Champaign411
Van Wert380
Perry351
Seneca342
Henry300
Paulding260
Adams241
Jackson240
Pike240
Vinton222
Gallia181
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Angola
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 72°
Van Wert
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 72°
Hot with storms Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events