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Garcia, who was in possession of a 9mm firearm that may have been used on Will, surrendered; she is being held on $1 million bail. She faces 15 felony charges in connection with Hernandez’s crime spree, including holding a carjacking victim at gunpoint and threatening to “blow his head off,” according to a prosecutor.

Will Senior, however, says that Hernandez’s death and Garcia’s arraignment are of little consequence to his family’s position.

“When Will first got shot, a lot of people came to me and said, ‘Oh, yeah, they shot that guy down in the barrio.’ People were really into the fact that the guy got killed, and I wasn’t really sure what my opinion of that was. Sure, it’s great that the guy’s off the street. The guy was on a freaking rampage, kind of like that cat [Christopher Dorner] up in L.A. recently. But it’s interesting that people come at it from that angle; like, ‘Oh, it’s a good thing he’s dead.’ Well, it doesn’t change anything for me. My boy’s still real hurt. That’s all we care about. Same for the young gal that was riding along with him. Some people want her to do life and all that, but again, it doesn’t change anything for me. I just want Will to get better.”

Will also says he doesn’t have a strong opinion about the death of Hernandez, though the flash of a smile suggests his approval at the mention of Garcia’s potential life sentence. Despite the senseless attack, Will thinks it’s “totally okay” for people to own guns.

“One of the first things I want to do when I’m back on my feet is get a concealed-carry license,” he says.

Will even sports a revolver sticker on the front of his helmet, alongside graffiti-crew logos and a piece by local artist Sergio Hernandez.

The attack has, on the other hand, polarized the family’s view of the healthcare system and of their insurance providers.

Marie’s maternal instincts are fully engaged. Her meticulous involvement in Will’s recovery has saved him from at least one potentially lethal error.

She recalls an instance when Will became dehydrated and began to lose cognitive function. He couldn’t remember his therapist’s name. He was nodding off. Marie took him to the hospital and the doctor suggested an MRI. To this day, Will has fragments of a hollow-point bullet lodged in his skull and shoulder. Marie stopped the neurologist in his tracks.

“Thank god Marie was there, because it could have been fatal,” says Will Senior. “It could change everything. The neurologist didn’t know. I was stunned by that.”

The day prior to my visit in early March, Marie received a phone call from a woman at the neurologist’s office, asking if Will had gone to his radiology appointment to get a head scan for the bone flap that will cover the unprotected right side of his brain. Marie told her, “Yeah, of course, he went two weeks ago.”

“So, we’re assuming that this bone flap is being made,” she says. “It takes two weeks. But nobody went and picked up the film, to go take it to the lab, so the bone flap can be made. And I’m thinking, Why are they calling me? Why can’t they call the hospital and find out if I went? Will always jokes that I should wear a lab coat, because if I didn’t research as much as I did, if I didn’t take notes and listen, there’s so many things that could have fallen through the cracks. I don’t know how people do it who aren’t educated, or who don’t feel like they need to know. So many things have fallen apart, and I’m on it 100 percent. The system is so broken. There’s so much middle management, things get lost or not communicated.”

Like, say, broken ribs.

“When Will got shot, they had to revive him,” says Will Senior. “He was so far gone. He’s been to the ‘other side.’ So, when they revived him, they broke a rib, which is common. But no one ever mentioned that until about four months in.”

Will diagnosed himself.

More troublesome was the time an insurance-issued therapist came to visit them in Rancho San Diego. It was so apparent that he had not read Will’s file, they asked him to leave. Then there was the time Marie had to fight with a hospital not to release Will the day before Thanksgiving with only a half hour’s notice.

“I guess my thing with the insurance is that they really dictate where he can go and what he can and can’t do,” says Marie. “The people they send have to be authorized by them, and many times they’re people who we never would have chosen for Will. Or insurance doesn’t want to pay, so they like to act like he plateaus [in his recovery], which is not the case. That’s one thing I would really love to change about insurance. They don’t care about the patient. They don’t care about his physical well-being.”

In the beginning, they had to live two weeks at a time, because the insurance company reevaluated Will’s progress biweekly. Marie was constantly looking for a new place for Will to go.

“I don’t know how anybody could do this with an eight-to-five job, not even remotely,” says Will Senior, who, along with Marie, hasn’t had time to work since the attack happened. “I really question that. That’s where the system breaks down.”

Thanks to his parents’ efforts, Will is well on his way to recovery. Now at his mother’s house in Bankers Hill, he passes the time resting, watching movies, and talking with friends using FaceTime.

He’s still in a lot of pain and has trouble sleeping, in addition to constant hunger and bouts of uncontrollable laughter. He’s on a regimen of medication for spasms and nerve pain stemming from damage to the brachial plexus in his right arm, which may be permanently unusable. He’s also had some difficulty with short-term memory and simple reasoning: he can forget about food in the fridge or that someone left the room a few minutes ago.

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Chad Deal May 8, 2013 @ 4 p.m.

$25 presale tickets are available for the Sunday, May 19 fundraiser at Fifty Seven Degrees (Middletown) here: http://fiftysevendegrees.com/fundraiser-for-will-barton


JVDGolf Aug. 8, 2013 @ 1:56 p.m.

A fundraising golf tournament will be held November 1, 2013 at the Crossings at Carlsbad to help Will. A chance to win $500,000 with a helicopter ball drop to kick things off. Visit http://www.birdeasepro.com/strongwill for more information or to register for the event .


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