Dreia Davis shouldn’t be alive. Yet she is. Doctors were doubtful Davis would survive after she was shot in the face in a drive-by shooting on Detroit’s east side in August 2009.
But she did.
Although the shooting left Davis in a wheelchair, she has continued to beat the odds, despite setbacks and recurring nightmares of that late summer night, when she nearly lost her life at age 13. Two heart attacks, numerous surgeries and a stroke later, Davis, 19, is determined to reclaim her life and achieve her dream of attending the University of Michigan and becoming a defense attorney.
There’s no denying Davis still has a long road ahead, but she has found unparallelled love and support in the one person who has remained by her side, caring for her and pushing her forward: her father, Curtis White. “It feels great to have him in my life,” she said while gripping his hand. “He’s had me since I was 3 weeks old. I love him.”
White, a single father, has relatively no help in caring for his daughter. Her mother, who still lives in Detroit, is not in the picture, White said, and his own family is unable to help.
But the father and daughter have formed a bond that grows each day.
“She’s my daughter, my best friend,” White, 45, said. “She knows me inside and out. It’s us against them. It’s us against the world. We beat the odds. We can do anything together. Me taking care of her, that’s second nature. I never had my dad, and I went through hell not knowing my dad. … So I have to be there, be here for her. That’s what’s given me the drive to do this for her. Since she’s come this far, the sky’s the limit. I’m never going to give up on her.”
Davis was a lively teen. She was a popular, nearly straight-A student and a head cheerleader at Greenfield Union School, on 7 Mile and Charleston. Before the shooting Aug. 5, 2009, Davis asked her father whether she could go to her friend’s house. He said yes. But later, he discovered she had caught the bus to go to another friend’s home, where he specifically told her not to go.
“Like a typical teen, she was being rebellious,” he said. He called her and told her to come home. “I told her, ‘Don’t make me come over there and get you,’ ” he said. “She promised she would make it home. The last thing I heard from her was, ‘Daddy, I’m on my way home. I love you.’ “
He started pacing when 8 p.m. came. Then 9 p.m. passed. As 10 p.m. neared, a feeling of dread swept across White. “I could feel it in my stomach,” he said. “I couldn’t pinpoint it, but something was not right.”
Minutes later, his daughter’s aunt called. In a trembling voice, she told him to come to the hospital immediately. “I couldn’t even comprehend what she was telling me,” he said. ” ‘Shot in the head?’ ‘What do you mean?’ As soon as I got there, they met me with the chaplains in the emergency room and I was already thinking it was over.”
Davis, an innocent bystander, was shot at the corner of Emery and Eureka, near 7 Mile on the city’s east side, while she talked to some friends. She was the only one injured.
“All it took was one unfortunate night of her not listening for a tragedy to occur,” White said.
After she was shot, Davis was rushed to the hospital and taken into the ICU, where doctors used an automatic external defibrillator to shock her heart back into rhythm after she suffered a heart attack on the operating table.
Doctors told White that his daughter had a 7% chance of making it. “I just lost my mind. That’s my only child,” he said. “From there, it was a whole lot of hoping, praying and being at the hospital 24/7. When I saw her in the emergency recovery room, I was shocked. Her head had swelled up to the size of a pumpkin.”
After several months on life support, doctors told White it was likely his daughter wouldn’t recover, and that he might have to consider removing the support.
“Doctors were telling me she was going to be a vegetable,” he said. “After the second heart attack and stroke, I started considering it. But I had a good cousin that came down from Battle Creek. She said: ‘God can do anything. Put your faith in God.’ And I swear on my life, that as soon as I did that, she made a drastic turnaround.”