Tony Marks was raised around guns and held a healthy respect for the weapons. But in 1991, at age 13, curiosity won out over respect, and he learned a lesson that would last a lifetime: Guns are not toys.
He and his best friend found a gun hidden in Tony’s house and, later, with his parents away, decided to play. Tony emptied the chamber, began to reload, and dropped a bullet. When he reached for it, the gun fired.
His friend searched the ceiling and wondered aloud, “Where’s the bullet?” Tony said, “In my head.” And he was right. The bullet was lodged in his brain’s right temporal lobe.
Tony remembers little of the 45 days he spent in Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital. He was in surgery more than nine hours and in a coma for 28 days. The outlook was bleak. His parents feared that he might not live or would be paralyzed or mentally impaired. Almost certainly, he’d lose some sight and hearing. He lost almost half his body weight. Several times, he almost died because of blood clots and spinal meningitis.
“My mom was always with me and witnessed one miracle after another,” he says. “I’m alive because of wonderful people at a wonderful hospital, but I give God the glory. God used Ben Taub and its people as instruments.”
Tony’s mom, Cynthia, never left his side. “If it hadn’t been for Ben Taub and the expertise of its people, trust me, my son would not be alive today. The doctors were magnificent. And the nurses! I cannot even describe the job they did. If a life can be saved, Ben Taub will do it.”
When Tony woke from his coma, he joined his parents and the healthcare team in the fight for his life. For months, most days involved hours of rehab and therapy. The struggle paid off. Today, at 35, he’s overcome almost all the impairments, earning paralegal certification and a psychology degree with honors. Now he’s working on a master’s degree in education with a specialty in Spanish.
His perspective on life has changed. “My accident changed my family. It made us better people. We don’t take anything for granted. Every breath is a gift.”