A Wichita boy who was the victim of a road-rage shooting last fall has been named the hero of the year after going “through the fight of his life” at a children’s hospital.
Andres Arambula was one of six children inside an SUV that was struck by gunfire on a street north of downtown Wichita on Oct. 17. One of the bullets hit him in the stomach area, and he was taken to a hospital in critical condition.
Seven months later, Andres was named the Kids Wish Network’s hero of the year in a ceremony Tuesday at Wesley Children’s Hospital.
“A very special hero, (Andres) is a courageous little boy who has been through the fight of his life,” said Josh Santiago, marketing manager of the Kids Wish Network, a national non-profit organization focused on serving children with exceptional medical circumstances.
One of the two bullets fired at the Chevy Tahoe hit just below the “Baby on Board” sign near where Andres was sitting, according to the charity. The bullet shattered his hip bone and lacerated his liver and a kidney.
At the hospital, Andres underwent an exploratory laparotomy, a surgical procedure where the abdomen is opened and organs are examined for injuries. The bullet was removed, and doctors repaired his diaphragm, liver and kidney, Santiago said. Andres also went through pain management and physical therapy to help him walk again.
“Andres was very brave with all of his treatments and he was very strong about doing what the doctors and nurses asked him to do here at Wesley Children’s Hospital,” said his mother, Lucero Arambula. “Me and my family faced several challenges along the way, but each one of them has only made us stronger as a family.
“Andres is not just a hero, but (also) a miracle, because he survived this and dealt with this pain.”
Andres was 4 at the time of the shooting.
“Last fall, I met little Andres in the hospital here shortly after he’d been shot,” Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said. “He was obviously a very lovable little kid who was in a lot of pain at the time, but he was still able to smile and talk. He showed great strength and bravery for such a little boy. His resilience to overcome challenges really is inspirational to all of us.”
Police were called to a shooting at around 4:55 p.m. Oct. 17 in the area of 10th and Topeka. Investigators determined that the Chevy Tahoe and a Ford Mustang were involved in a road rage incident that went on for about 2.5 miles in north Wichita after one vehicle apparently cut off the other. A passenger in the Mustang got out of the car and fired two shots from a gun at the SUV.
Police arrested the suspected driver, Ramonyka Evonn Smith, and the suspected shooter, Tylin Deshone Atkinson. Smith and Atkinson were charged in Sedgwick County District Court with criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle. Atkinson faces an additional charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. They both remain in the Sedgwick County Jail.
The Kids Wish Network gave Andres a bag of gifts and a $5,000 check. The organization also donated in his name a pallet of toys worth $20,000 to the Kansas Children’s Foundation, formerly the Wesley Children’s Foundation.
“When we had this vision of a children’s hospital a few years back, it was really to keep kids within the community and really elevate the care for kids so that their family members had a safety net,” said Wesley Healthcare COO Casey Guber. “With this children’s hospital, I have zero doubt that our medical providers, our child life specialists and everyone else who touched Andres truly made a difference.”