Finishing up her workday at home on Feb. 10, Ashlee Lacey Garcia was waiting for her husband, Michael, to get home from St. Rose of Lima Catholic School with their 10-year-old son, Xander. Then her husband called from an ambulance as he and Xander were both being taken to the emergency room.
Michael Garcia was driving near the 300 block of North Loop West, between North Shepherd Drive and Yale Street, just before 3:30 p.m. that day when he attempted to pass another driver but was cut off. According to police, the other driver pulled in front of Garcia’s SUV and suddenly braked before pulling out a gun and firing toward Garcia and his son, who was a passenger. Both were shot.
Even after colliding with the shooter’s car, Michael had the presence of mind to pull into a Memorial Hermann Urgent Care Center and then call Ashlee while en route via ambulance to Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital.
Ashlee said that everything that happened next was a blur. She remembers trying to get to her family during rush hour and running into the hospital like a “mad woman.”
Her husband had been shot in the abdomen and the bullet exited without damaging any major organs. Her son was also shot in the abdomen and the leg. The leg needed the most attention as the bullet lodged in the knee just before the joint.
Ashlee did not know any of these details when she arrived at the hospital but said her husband was so calm while being transported that she knew things were going to be OK. She has nothing but gratitude for the staff at Memorial Hermann as she celebrates a Mother's Day she may cherish more than any other.
“The whole team was amazing and so comforting," Ashlee said. "I couldn't be with both my husband and son at the same time, which was so hard, so they made an exception to allow our oldest daughter Alexis, our 24-year old, to come in as well. Xander has mentioned to me as well that when he arrived on the stretcher that he remembers seeing so many people waiting for him, and I truly think they were all angels.”
Xander spent two days in the hospital and has since completed physical therapy on his leg.
“He worked so hard and did great with his physical therapy,” Ashlee said. “The (physical therapists) were amazed at his motivation to push harder every session.”
Now at home, Xander is working on school assignments and resting. For him, the trauma associated with the experience has been the continuing hurdle.
“He hears noises and doesn’t always sleep very well,” she said. “Still, he’s been really positive. We are going to turn in his schoolwork this week so he can see his classmates and reconnect a little bit.”
Ashlee said police have told her they have a suspect in the shooting but that no one has yet been apprehended. She said that while she hopes the shooter is caught, they are working hard to move past the experience.
“It can go two ways,” she said. “You can take this experience and use it as a crutch or use it as motivation for a better you, and that is just what we as a family are doing.”
This Mother’s Day will be especially sweet for Ashlee, who also has Alexis, her step-daughter, and 15-year-old daughter, Madison, who attends Incarnate Word Academy.
“Of course, you have your vision of your children’s lives,” she said. “But I love being a mom and watching them become their own selves. Working from home has really opened my eyes to how they are changing so quickly and how their views and opinions at times are so different than mine. I am inspired when I see all the strength they have. I don’t remember having that kind of strength when I was their age.”
Ashlee says she still gets her snuggles in when she can and is enjoying all the unscheduled time to really be present in every moment.
“I don’t worry anymore about things that don’t matter,” Ashlee said. “I think about our health, our safety and the fact that we can be together again another day. For sure this has been a challenge, but I am grateful for all our blessings, both big and small.”