As Kusi waited for the elevator of his building in Jane and Falstaff’s neighborhood, three men approached him and pulled out their weapons. He ran, but not before the men fired at least 20 bullets, hitting him in the legs, arms, shoulder and stomach. “One of the guys dropped his gun right in front of my face, but luckily he didn’t shoot me again. He just picked it up and left, ”he said.
Kusi was rushed to hospital, but what he didn’t know in the back of the ambulance was that this shooting would be just one of the ways he would almost die in 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been marked by tragedy but also remarkable recovery stories, like that of Kusi.
Immediately after the shooting, Kusi gathered enough strength to call 9-1-1 and waited for paramedics to find him near the exit of the stairwell.
“The paramedics were trying to find out if I was involved in a gang or something, but I am not and in too much pain to speak. “
At the time, Toronto police told CBC News that it was an “ambush” shooting and that they were looking for four suspects.
Kusi says he had lived in the neighborhood since he was a child but never had any problems and always stayed out of trouble.
Police said they were still trying to piece together the motive for the crime before eventually arresting two people, Kusi said.
“I learned when I was in the hospital that two of the four suspects had been arrested. I was told that one person was in jail and another had been released on bail, ”he said.
The bar owner helps Kusi
For the past five years, Kusi has worked at a popular and cozy basement bar near Dundas Street West and Ossington Avenue – he started out as a security guard and worked his way up to become a floor manager.
The owner, Phillipp Ackaoui, says he was closing the bar with Kusi hours before he was shot.
“I remember getting a frantic phone call at 9 am from a friend saying that Kevin had been shot. I thought it was a mistake because I was right with him. Then I heard about his mother. I was stunned, ”he said.
The two had grown closer over the years and Ackaoui was even planning to train Kusi to take over his bar one day.
“I was devastated to see Kevin hurt. I promised to help him and also that I wouldn’t eat cheeseburgers at Extra Burger after work like I used to until he got home, ”he said.
Kusi had to undergo several life-saving surgeries to remove the bullets and repair the damage.
Some bullets are still inside him today because he’s not sure to remove them, he says.
However, as he recovered in hospital, cases of COVID-19 began to increase outside the community.
Contractualization of COVID-19 at the hospital
After two months in the hospital, Kusi was within weeks of being released from rehab when he fell ill.
As he prepared to learn to walk again, he tested positive for COVID-19 in May 2020.
Kusi says he contracted the virus while in the intensive care unit at Sunnybrook Hospital.
“I was surprised and I was really angry. I didn’t understand how I could have caught COVID-19. I was tired of being in the hospital and worried more about the virus than getting shot, ”he mentioned.
I was more worried about the virus than being shot at.– Kevin Kusi
In the days following the positive test, his condition worsened. It started with a fever and a cough, but the doctors soon had to put him in a medically induced coma for 10 days.
All the surgeries he needed after the shooting made his body too weak to fight off the virus.
Kusi told CBC News Toronto he was put on a ventilator for 30 days and transferred to Toronto General Hospital.
He doesn’t remember much of that time, but says he is grateful to the health workers who helped him survive, as well as to his friends and family.
Recovery interrupted by blockage
In the summer of 2020, weeks after beating COVID-19, Kusi was released from the hospital in rehab to start learning to walk again.
As he worked to build his strength, Kusi says he started noticing issues with his right leg.
“My leg was still swollen and everything I did made my heart beat faster. He was struggling to breathe and feared COVID-19 would wake up.
He tested negative for the virus, but after further testing, doctors found a blockage blocking blood flow to his leg and called an ambulance to send him back to hospital.
Doctors feared his heart was on the verge of failure after surgeries, COVID-19 and now the blockage.
Kusi underwent another emergency surgery.
After the successful operation and nearly six months in hospital, he was finally allowed to return home in August 2020.
Ackaoui then launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Kusi get back on his feet after his release.
The goal was to raise $ 10,000 to help him move to a safer area and ensure he was financially stable during the pandemic.
With the support of those close to him, Kusi says he was able to persevere through the most difficult times of his life.
“I won’t be playing basketball anytime soon, but I can walk again and I’m starting to feel a little more normal. “
Kusi, who plans to attend George Brown College in the fall to complete his business administration degree, says doctors have told him he should make a strong recovery and although he may never be again. the same, he says he is grateful to be still there.
He hopes to be able to continue working with Ackaoui and one day help run the bar.
In the meantime, the two friends have kept their promise to get these cheeseburgers, as they said.
“There are a lot of good days and bad, but I’m lucky to be alive,” Kusi said.
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to successes within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project of which black Canadians can be proud. You can read more stories here.