APOLLO BEACH, Fla. - Just by looking at him, Diego Duran looks like any 13-year-old boy. But Diego has a tube imbedded in his head to help drain fluids.
He still suffers from short-term memory loss and deals with some cognitive issues. Some of the many consequences after being struck by a stay bullet while watching fireworks in his own backyard on New Year's Eve.
"I was looking up the sky at the fireworks and then I collapsed on the floor. I could still see, but it was like a fog," Diego said.
Deputies determined the then 12-year-old was struck from a bullet from a .45 gun.
"I knew something had happened. But I didn't know exactly what. You know when you hit your funny bone -- that feeling? That feeling was throughout my whole body," Diego explained.
His mother, Sandy Duran knew something awful had happened.
"My daughter at the time thought someone was on the property trying to shoot at us. That to me really got to me to my heart when she said that but we didn't even have time to think. We just had time to do what we could to save his life because he was bleeding so much. We did not even wait for the ambulance," said Duran.
Now Diego's basketball hoop stands at that exact spot where he fell. Duran told us why.
"I think it is part of the healing process, you know you want to cover up something in history that is very painful -- literally. And here we have this physical spot on the earth that brought you a lot of pain, we want to cover it with joy and gratitude," said Duran.
They don't take Diego's recovery for granted. He is the youngest of three children. His sisters and parents adore him. They remember those excruciating moments they thought they almost lost him.
Diego spent weeks at time in the hospital, including the intensive care unit. He's endured nearly half-dozen surgeries. And was tutored in the hospital, because he couldn't go to school.
But during one of those recovery periods, Diego and his family decided one real-life lesson they hope to spread to the community.
Diego created the design for a bracelet he wears every day. It's part of his family's campaign: A Bullet Free Sky.
"We sell shirts, bracelets, and stickers that have 'Bullet Free Sky' on it. We are trying to spread the words as much as we can, so no one will ever shoot up in the air again," said Diego.
Through Bullet Free Sky, Diego hopes to one day ban celebratory gun fire altogether. Right now, even though deputies strongly discourage it, they said it's allowed in some areas.
Diego's mission is clear: "I want to make sure no one else gets hurt. I want to make sure no one goes through what I did."
People are listening. Sandy said the Apollo Beach community is naming a skate park in Diego's honor as a way to honor his campaign this weekend.
Because of his injury, Diego is not yet allowed back on his board. But he promises to be one day, just as he promises to make his entire community a safer place.
To find out more about Bullet Free Sky, visit bulletfreesky.com .
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