By: Romila Boodram
Despite a bullet still lodged in his abdomen, Baby Jhiem Travis Rudder (Jnr) is no different than any other two year old.
He is playful, troublesome and even stubborn at times when things don’t go his way.
Like most toddlers, little Travis starts his day with a kiss on the cheek from his mother, Mawanza Gill and ends it by kissing her after “torturing” her throughout the day.
The only difference between this toddler and the other children his age, are the tiny round marks on his legs, the incision wound on his abdomen and a bullet that is still lodged in his lower abdomen.
Travis as he is affectionately called, miraculously survived a vicious gun attack that left his father dead.
On the night of June 20, last, at just 17 months old, little Travis was shot six times while sleeping at his grandmother’s residence in Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara. His father, Travis Rudder was executed and his mother was wounded.
For this lad and his parents, that fateful day started just like any other day- he played with his parents and fidgeted with almost everything that caught his attention in his grandmother’s home until he was tired that night.
A little after 21:00 hrs, he was taken to bed by his father- That would be the last night baby Travis would be sleeping next to both parents.
At 01:40 hrs the following day, gunmen, firing from semi-automatic pistols, pumped 12 bullets into the older Rudder; six into the baby while his mother was shot seven times as they all slept.
The shooting lasted for about 20 minutes and by the time the gunmen’s clips were empty, the older Rudder lay dead while his wounded reputed wife and their baby were left screaming in their room with blood gushing from a number of bullet wounds on their bodies.
In the days that followed, Jhiem Travis Rudder battled for his life on a life support machine in the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC)’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), while his mother was being cared for in the hospital’s Female Surgical Ward.
No one thought that the toddler would have survived but his speedy recovery after two weeks shocked all.
Today, almost a year later, Baby Travis is a bouncing boy who already knows how to flirt with the ladies- Oh yes, he does!
With the most adorable smile, he could wave you goodbye and even blow a kiss at you.
Although he is now learning to speak, his voice is unforgettable.
When this newspaper visited him recently, he was not at all shy- in fact, he ran to the verandah and while smiling with the reporter, he called for his mother- saying- “Ma, Gal…Ma, Gal.”
According to his mother, no one could tell that her son had been shot six times since he doesn’t show any signs that would indicate that he was once clinging to life on a life support machine.
However, his condition is given away when he walks, she said, since he limps a little due to the gunshot wounds he sustained in his leg.
Baby Travis, she says, talks, runs, plays, eats, sleeps and does everything perfectly fine. He also loves to pose and take photographs.
The deadliest 20 minutes
Recalling what transpired on June 20th 2015, the baby’s 32-year-old mother said she had decided to spend some time at her mother -in- law’s home at Nandy Park after the baby’s father pressed her to go there.
With tears running down her cheeks, she said that when they reached at her mother-in-law’s residence, she made tea while her partner played video games and her son was running all over in the house.
“I then went to bed and a little later baby came in with Travis. We put the mattress on the floor because the baby does roll. Travis (Snr) fixed the net and we sleep,” the devastated Gill recounted.
In her sleep, Gill recalled hearing very loud explosions and thought someone was lighting fire crackers. This was around 01:40 hrs.
“I jump out of my sleep and I didn’t understand what was happening. When I opened my eyes, I see he (her partner) got up and he was trying to pull up the net,” Gill recalled.
She said that she only realized the explosions were gunshots being fired into the room when she saw her partner panicking to get the mosquito net up to move his son. She later felt something stinging her skin.
“The lights were on so the shooters were aiming at us but we couldn’t see outside. The glare was too much. We run to the bedroom door and I was pulling the bottom and he (Travis Snr.) was pulling the top to get it open.”
Gill, who is in a wheel chair as a result of the injury she sustained, said that all she heard during the 20 minutes ordeal were gunshots- the gunmen did not say anything.
“We were just screaming and even before I understand what was happening, I felt these hard things hitting me on my skin. It was too much and Travis fall down by the door,” a tearful Gill recalled.
The woman said that by the time the gunmen left, her partner was already dead. “I was on the floor and baby was crying all the time.”
In the confusion, Gill was unaware that her baby was struck by some of the bullets.
She said that miraculously, with all the bullet wounds he sustained the little boy walked to his father and he threw himself on him.
“Like when he (baby) realized that his father wasn’t holding him, he come and throw himself on me.”
According to Gill, when baby Travis threw himself on her feet, she tried to lift him but she couldn’t move; that is when she realized that she had been shot multiple times in her legs.
“He was on my foot crying but I couldn’t move and his father was by my left side and I was trying to wake him but he wasn’t moving. When I look at baby I see he had a hole in his belly and he had his finger in the hole,” the devastated mother recalled.
She further related that by then her mother-in-law had rushed into the room and she asked her to take the baby away.
When she handed over her son to his grandmother that day, she was only able to see him a week later since both of them were hospitalized in different wards.
While it might take years for baby Travis to understand what happened to him and his family, his mother vowed to be by his side and support him.
She said that she only leaves home when it is time for her to go to clinic for her checkups so she is actually her son’s playmate. They are financially supported by her mother and friends.
While someone has been arrested and charged for the shooting, Gill is still worried and scared that one day someone might come back to finish them off.
She is sure that her child’s father was the gunmen’s main target.
With this thought always in her head, she is scared to return to her home.
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