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Cooper Roberts, 8-year-old Highland Park shooting victim, "in constant pain" during rigorous rehab

Cooper Roberts, 8-year-old Highland Park shooting victim, still in constant pain
Cooper Roberts, 8-year-old Highland Park shooting victim, still in constant pain 00:34

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy shot and paralyzed during the 4th of July parade massacre, is in constant pain as he makes a slow physical and emotional recovery, his family said.

"It is very hard to convince Cooper that he will be happy again. Of course, we are beyond grateful for his survival, and we know others weren't as fortunate, but we want people to know his path/our path will be a very long and hard road. He's an eight-year-old boy who feels hopeless, sad and angry as the reality of his life is setting in," Cooper's family said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Cooper was released from the University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital two weeks ago, and is now recovering at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where he is undergoing rigorous daily physical and occupational therapy, while learning to manage maneuvering around three tubes coming out of his body, two ports, and a PICC line, according to his family.

"Cooper is in constant pain. It is agonizing to see. He still has internal damage – wounds that are slow to heal. He is on a constant IV drip of antibiotics to ward off infection, has swelling that obscures the full internal picture, and suffers stomach pain as his body relearns to process mainly liquid food. He remains on heavy painkillers from which he is being weaned this week," his family said.

Cooper Roberts Roberts family

While Cooper has been cleared to begin eating solid food again, his liquid diet through a feeding tube often makes him too full to enjoy even some of his favorite foods, managing only a couple bites before feeling too full and nauseous, according to his family.

He's also only able to see his entire family once a week for a short period of time, due to ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols while in rehab.

"He desperately misses his twin brother, Luke. He misses his family, his home, his room, his toys, his friends, his dog and his school and everything from – and he's beginning to ask things like, 'What will I do at recess?' though it will be many weeks before he goes back to school," his family said.

Cooper's family has said his rehab at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is expected to last a total of 6 to 12 weeks. After that, he will rejoin his twin brother, Luke, in the third grade at Braeside Elementary School in Highland Park.

Cooper Roberts Roberts family

In the parade massacre, Cooper was shot in the back and the bullet exited through his chest. The bullet "did significant damage throughout his body, including to his aorta, liver, esophagus, and spinal cord," his mother, Keely Roberts, wrote in late July.

Ms. Roberts was also shot. She said she suffered bullet wounds to two parts of her leg, and has already had multiple surgical procedures on her foot. The injuries require ongoing orthopedic treatment, she said.

Cooper's brother, Luke, suffered only minor physical injuries – but the emotional trauma has been devastating on its own, Roberts wrote.

Both Cooper and Luke are in private counseling and mental health services. Cooper is suffering from flashbacks that disrupt his sleep and other post-traumatic stress symptoms.

"There are layers upon layers of cruelty with being shot by a sniper. Most people don't witness the grueling aftermath of surviving these devastating wounds, physical and emotional. We are constantly encouraging and motivating Cooper, seeking the positives and hanging on to hope, but we want people to know the unvarnished reality which is his/our new world," Cooper's family wrote.

Still, his family said "every kindness makes him smile" as he recovers.

"We are so grateful for the gift, cards, prayers and donations that will help carry us all through this very bleak period," his family wrote.

A GoFundMe set up to help Cooper's family pay for his medical expenses has raised more than $1.7 million so far.

Cooper Roberts Roberts family
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