RUSKIN — A month after a bullet tore through his brain, 12-year-old Diego Duran is at home, eating chicken wings, learning about wetlands and waiting for the day he can pick up his skateboard.
He can talk. He can walk. He can play his guitar.
And his memory is just fine. He even remembers the moment the .45-caliber full metal jacket bullet rained down on him.
It felt like an electric shock.
"Like a big vibration shook through his body," his mother, Sandy Duran, said Friday.
Deputies still haven't caught the person who fired the bullet. More than 30 tipsters called the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office with information shortly after New Year's Eve, but detectives are still investigating.
They believe the gun was fired within a mile of the intersection of SE 14th Avenue and SE Sixth Street in Ruskin.
Sandy Duran hopes whoever did it comes forward.
"If he's brave enough to fire a gun into the sky," she said, "he should be brave enough to admit he's done something wrong and help us create awareness."
She and Diego want everyone to understand the danger of celebratory gunfire. They want people to call police whenever they see someone shooting bullets into the sky.
Though Diego hasn't shed a tear during the past 41 days, he has felt pain. Fifty-eight staples held together an ear-to-ear incision across his skull, where surgeons operated.
They had to remove two pseudoaneurysms — collections of blood outside damaged blood vessels.
For now, Diego is able to recover at home. He may soon return to Beth Shields Middle School, where he's in the seventh grade.
He does math and science work at home. A Hillsborough school teacher visits him twice a week. He'll likely start physical, occupational and speech therapy soon.
His recovery is covered by the family's health insurance, Sandy Duran said. She's had to stop her part-time job to care for Diego, but others have stepped in to help. The community raised about $7,500 at a recent garage sale in Ruskin.
Sandy Duran says she doesn't quite understand everything. The brain is as complicated as the universe. But she says, somehow, her son may make a full recovery.
And in a year, he'll probably be back on his skateboard.
With a helmet, she says, smiling.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3433.