Nykia White of Ellisville walks with a slight limp, and the vision in her right eye is not perfect. But she’s just thankful she and her son are alive.
White was seven months pregnant in November 2019, when she was caught in the crossfire as two men got into a shootout in the parking lot of Southern Hens in Moselle, where she worked.
White said she was shot in the back of the head by accident by one of the men after he pulled a gun in self-defense when a weapon was drawn on him. She told one of the men to put his gun down. He did, but not before the other person fired, accidentally hitting her in the back of her head.
White’s mother Davokiee Clayton received a call about the shooting, and she was given little hope her daughter would survive after initial medical assessments.
White was transported by ambulance to Forrest General Hospital’s Level II Trauma Center, where she was met by a trauma team that included neurosurgeon Richard Clatterbuck.
“Dr. Clatterbuck told me when I arrived that Nykia wasn’t in good shape, but gave her a 40 percent chance of living,” Clayton recalled.
He explained that they were taking her into emergency surgery to deliver the baby in an effort to save both mother and child.
Massiah Amir White was born Nov. 22, weighing in at 3 pounds, 2 ounces. It was one day before his mother’s 21st birthday.
Following delivery, White was rushed into surgery for a craniotomy. The bullet, which was lodged behind White’s right eye, was left in place after Clatterbuck determined it would do more damage to try to remove the bullet.
“He informed me it was a very rough surgery, and he’d never seen anybody overcome surgery like this before,” Clayton said. “And while he specializes in trauma, he told me it was a hard task for him, and he didn’t know how things would come out or if she would be able to remember anything.
“But thank God … she does.”
Clayton is quick to say that Clatterbuck, who she describes as an amazing doctor, did “an awesome job” taking care of her daughter, as did the entire trauma team.
“They did everything they could for Nykia and her baby,” Clayton said.
When she awoke after her surgery, White said she didn’t know how, but she knew she had given birth.
“All I wanted was to see my child,” she said.
Initially, she could only Facetime on her phone to see him, not hold him.
“When I saw him, I knew I was really a mother,” she aid. “I had a twin, a mini-me.”
It was her mother who eventually told White she had been shot in the head.
“I didn’t believe her at first,” Nykia said.
White remained in Forrest General Hospital’s ICU for 49 days – from the shooting in November through January — then she stayed in rehab until Feb. 25.
White admits that therapy was hard.
“Once upon a time, I really wanted to give up,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it by myself if not for the Forrest General therapy team’s help. They helped me with a lot of stuff – walking and moving my arms.”
It was her son who kept her pushing forward.
“I was thinking ahead to him walking across that stage at graduation,” she said. “I wanted to see him be able to walk across that stage. I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair.”
Prior to being discharged, the therapists, nurses and others on the rehab floor threw White a surprise baby shower.
“It was something she wasn’t expecting at all, but was amazing and so nice,” Clayton said. “They were trying to make it special for her. They also built a ramp at my house at no cost so Nykia could easily come in and out.”
These days, White, with the help of her mother and other family members, is running around after a rambunctious almost 3-year-old who enjoys basketball and ice cream.
“It’s been kind of hard raising my son,” White said. “But my family, they had my back.
“The doctors and staff at Forrest General took mighty good care of me and my son. That’s why I always wanted to go back and thank them, but that’s when COVID-19 happened. I really wanted to give them my biggest thank you because of their care.”
Clayton thanked the Forrest General staff — doctors, nurses and therapists — for saving her daughter’s life. But it’s the trauma team that she credits with being her daughter’s angels.
“I sincerely thank Forrest General because they did an excellent job of taking care of Nykia and Massiah,” she said. “Dr. Clatterbuck was an outstanding doctor, who did an awesome job, and the trauma team was great.”