Cooper Roberts, the 8-year-old boy who was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in the abdomen by a gunman who opened fire during Highland Park's fourth of July parade, returned to critical condition following a period of brief progress this week as his condition continues to fluctuate, his family said Friday.
In a statement, Cooper's family said his progress "has been up and down" as the young boy enters his 19th day in the hospital. On Thursday, the child went outside for the first time since the tragic Independence Day shooting that killed seven people and wounded dozens of others.
Cooper's condition had been downgraded to serious briefly on Thursday, but he returned to critical following a new CT scan and remains in the pediatric intensive care unit.
Earlier this week, doctors were concerned by fluid in his pelvis, despite positive signs in his condition.
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"The scan showed that the concerning fluid in his pelvis is an abscess," a statement from family spokesman Anthony Loizzi read. "The various medical teams (cardiac, thoracic, infectious disease, pediatrics) will confer today on the best approach to evacuate the fluid."
Cooper has also suffered from a spiking fever "off and on, likely due to this infection."
But on a brighter note, the family said the 8-year-old boy was able to consume some liquid by mouth for the first time on Thursday as he had an orange popsicle.
As the young boy continues to fight for his life, the family asked for continued prayers and expressed gratitude for the "outpouring of support," which included a special care package from the Milwaukee Brewers, his favorite baseball team.
Doctors last week were encouraged when, after a long, urgent surgery Wednesday to reclose the original bullet-induced tear in his esophagus, Cooper awoke Thursday with no signs of fever or need for a ventilator. However, as the day progressed, his fever spiked up to 104, and a CT scan revealed the fluid build-up.
Monday, though, Loizzi noted that Cooper had been showing signs of improvement -- including being fever-free for 48 hours, and breathing without the help of a ventilator.
Loizzi also said that Cooper, who's spine was severed, was able to sit up with the help of medical professionals -- a milestone in a long journey ahead. "[Cooper] sat up, with assistance, and took a brief first ride in a wheelchair over the weekend; sadly, something he will need to get used to," Loizzi's update read.
"It was very difficult and emotional for him and his family."
Cooper was attending the Fourth of July parade with his twin brother, mother and father when a gunman fired more than 70 rounds into the crowd. Cooper was struck in the abdomen and has suffered significant injuries, including a severed spinal cord, Loizzi previously said. He is currently paralyzed from the waist down.
"He is in a great deal of pain – physically and emotionally – especially as the family had to share with him the devastating news that he is paralyzed from the waist down," a statement from Loizzi read previously.
Cooper's mother, Zion Elementary School District 6 Superintendent Keely Roberts, and his twin brother Luke, were also struck by gunfire and injured in the shooting.
His mother was struck in the foot and leg area, underwent several surgeries and was released from the hospital at her request so she could be by her son's side, Loizzi said. Cooper's brother, Luke' suffered injuries from shrapnel and was released from the hospital.