Man, it’s a good thing Lins Barwick is a “glass half full” kind of guy.
Sure, he was shot in the chest and left for dead last month by three hooligans, but, he noted, the bullet fired into his chest from a foot away missed his vital organs by centimeters.
On top of that, he said, since he got shot, donations have almost tripled to the charity he’d set up to help the little Ghanaian girl he adopted to his heart while on a medical internship to Ghana.
Best of all, though, he said, “I don’t remember a thing” after offering the men his wallet.
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When I introduced you to Barwick, 20, two weeks ago while he was still in the hospital, I told you about the emotional bond he’d formed with Angel Komenda, a tot with myriad medical challenges who’d been taken to the hospital after being rooted up by some pigs. Seems her parents, possibly overwhelmed by her physical and mental disabilities, had buried her alive.
He got shot after walking two female friends home after a party. He was headed back to his crib around 2 a.m. when armed men alighted from an SUV, approached and demanded his money: he gave it to them.
OK, he tried to give it to them, just the way the cops tell you to do. “Some guys in a car pulled up and I knew right away something was wrong,” he said. “They asked me for my wallet. There were three of them. I wasn’t going to try to be the hero. That would’ve been terrible.”
It turned out to be terrible, anyway. “I told them they could have my wallet, even though I didn’t have any cash in it so it probably wouldn’t do them any good,” he said.
He pulled the wallet from his back pocket, offered it to one of the men and ...
And that’s all, folks. Or it almost was.
“I don’t remember anything after that,” he said. “I don’t even remember seeing the gun. I don’t remember actually being shot, which is a good thing, because the traumatic part of the incident — I don’t remember, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
Where his memory resumes is with his struggle to survive. “The next thing I knew, I woke up and was lying on the ground,” he said. “I tried to figure out how to get help. I reached around on the ground for my phone, but I couldn’t find it because they’d stolen it.
“I tried to get up, but that didn’t work. Then I started to try to wave down the cars that were passing by. I made it approximately two minutes, then I passed out again... An Uber driver actually stopped and got out to see what was wrong because she noticed there was somebody lying in the street, and my best friend was in the Uber. He got out a couple of minutes later to see what was happening. He said ‘My God, it’s Lins.’ He didn’t know that I’d been shot; he just knew something was really wrong... I was so disoriented. He said ‘We’re going to call the police.’ I said ‘Yes, call the police.’ And then they showed up.”
He recites details of his ordeal with no embellishment, no rancor, no bitterness, not a smidgen of self-pity.
Have you ever asked, I asked, “Why would something like this happen to me? Here am I, trying to make life better for a little girl halfway around the world, making sure two friends get safely home, and some $@#%$%&* like this happens?”
“I’ve never been the kind of person to do that,” he responded. “I’ve had things happen to me in my life, everyone has, and my whole mindset — because it makes it easier on me — is to not think like that, to instead think future-oriented because it’s already happened so ‘too bad.’ Why sit around and be like ‘Why did this happen to me?’ when I can just progress through it instead of trying to figure out something I’ll never know the answer to anyway.”
I told you the dude is only 20, right?
Barwick, who said he may enter med school after graduating from Wake Forest University, started talking doctor talk when I asked what happened at the hospital. I did understand, though, when he said the bullet “had not hit any what you’d call vital organs. It had not hit my lung or heart. It hit about everything else... The bullet went through my stomach, my liver, my pancreas, my gall bladder and my small intestine. Oh, and it fractured my spine and sent a lot of bone fragments into my spinal cord and bruised it, which is why I have the problems with my leg.”
Those problems require him to use a black metal cane, which sat propped beside him on the stuffed, upholstered chair in which he sat as we talked in his family’s Raleigh living room.
Asked the prognosis for a full recovery, Barwick shrugged. I mean, he literally shrugged. “It’s hard to say with spinal cord injuries. Sometimes the nerves regenerate, sometimes they don’t. Everything seems to be working fine. The only thing is that I have numbness in the front of my shin, but who cares?”
His recovery to this point has been so steady that, he said, “I got to miss in-patient therapy, which is a good thing. They felt I’d made enough progress to be sent home.”
He’s also made enough progress to leave home with some of his Broughton High School chums who came by the house and took him out days after he arrived. “I saw some people and it took them a minute to realize who I was. They knew who I was, but then they realized like ‘He’s out,’” Barwick said.
Has he, I asked, heard anything from Winston-Salem police about the investigation and the hunt for the people who almost killed him?
“Nah, not really,” he said, seemingly bored by even having to think of them. “I’m not that worried about that, as long as I don’t see them again.”
He’s a better man than I. It’s been 35 years or so since my buddy Walter and I were held up leaving a party in Atlanta on a Friday night, and if I could positively identify the gunman, I’d be inclined to “lose my ’ligion” upside his head and ask for forgiveness later. That’s despite the fact that my robber was probably the most conscientious stickup man in history: when I asked him to let me keep some of my just-got-paid money — “C’mon, man. Let me have $20 to walk with” — he dropped a Jackson on the ground and fled.
Barwick said he is eager to get back to school. “It was a lot of fun. I was living with some great, great guys before this all happened,” he said. “There was never a dull moment in that house. Great times. That was probably the thing I was most sad about. I’d just got back from Africa and settled into normal life and then this happened.
“The guys I lived with are the ones who set up that fundraiser for me,” he said. They printed and sold “Lins Strong” T-shirts that have raised more than $15,000. “Apart from that,” he said, “the fundraiser for Angel has gone up about $15,000 from the day I got shot. It’s a nice way to have people support me and my recovery — to donate to something I care about.”
Barwick concedes he gets tired more easily. “Other than that,” he said, “I’m good to go. I’m not one of those guys who’s going to live in fear or change the way I do things because of this one incident. That’ll ruin you. I’m not going to change.”
Considering the kind of person he already seems to be, we should all be grateful for that.
When he points to where the bullet went into his chest, “Right here, very close to lots of bad things,” and tells you the length of time he lay in the street trying to flag down help, you realize he’s not exaggerating when he says, with no drama or emotion, “I should be dead.”
Again, we should all be grateful that he’s not, and that he, possibly, had an Angel watching over him that night.