Gunshot survivors join support group to overcome physical and emotional pain

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The numbers are startling. Nearly 1,700 shootings were reported in Memphis in the past year and a half.

Many victims survive, but continue to battle emotional and physical pain.

"You're left with scars forever," said Jeff Droke. "One of the things people don't understand."

Droke is a gunshot survivor.

"On January 22, 2003, a 19-year-old appeared at the door," he said.

That man was hired to kill Droke for getting involved in a former coworker's custody battle.

"He came up with his firearm and said he was going to kill me," said Droke. "I just didn't want to die that day."

He fired round after round as Droke tried to stop him.

Droke was shot eight times that morning in the chest, neck and twice in the head.

In the days that followed, police nabbed the shooter and the man who hired him while Droke recovered in the hospital.

"It's horrific what you have to go through," he explained.

Now 14 years later, Droke hasn't fully recovered. He battles pain, numbness and mini-strokes.

"Until you've gone through it, you don't understand all the problems you face," he said.

It's why he teamed up with the Shelby County Crime Victim's Center and created a gunshot survivors' group.

Every other Thursday, they meet to talk with one another, offer counseling and advice.

Lonnie Collins joined the group a couple of months ago.

"I got shot in the head twice in 1992," said Collins.

He was 22 years old and spent six months in a coma. He doesn't remember what happened, but knows he had to learn how to walk and talk again.

"Thought I was having a bad dream. It was real," said Collins. "It was like dying, but you didn't die."

Collins said it's been hard relating to anyone until he started coming to the group.

He's not the only one who's found relief.

"A sense of comradery is developing quickly," said Droke.

For more information on the group, contact Anna Whalley at the Shelby County Crime Victims Center at (901) 222-3950.