Six days before her 28th birthday, Krysten Wiist told her mom over dinner, “I guess I’m not going to be a member of the 27 Club.” She was speaking of popular musicians and artists who died at age 27: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, to name a few.
A few hours later, she opened her apartment door to find a man with a gun. He shoved her inside and demanded everything she had. As she struggled with him to protect her two children, ages 4 and 2, he shot six times. One bullet glazed her left arm, another hit her right thumb. Still another went into her chest, narrowly missing her heart and lung; it exited under her left arm. With a sudden “I gotta go,” he left with nothing.
Krysten ran to her bedroom for her phone. She wrapped her injured hand in a towel and held it to her chest. She called 911 as neighbors came and her husband returned home.
She was rushed to Ben Taub Hospital where “all I saw was people. They were waiting for me. I was triaged and scanned and prepared for surgery, just in case.” It turned out she didn’t need surgery that night, but the staff did something just as important. “They protected my anonymity.”The intruder had robbed this outgoing people-person of her faith in humanity. The staff at Ben Taub intuitively understood and allowed no visitors without Krysten’s approval.
Her thumb would later require two surgeries to achieve limited use. She never returned to her apartment, living with relatives until her family moved. The shooter could be a face in any crowd. She labored to move forward.
“I tried therapy, but I was stuck on what happened rather than how to cope. The best piece of advice I received was to tell my story in past tense.”
Krysten wasn’t comfortable returning to her job, so her father and uncle provided a solution. They bought Sundale Donuts #4 in Magnolia and asked Krysten and her husband to run it. There, she sees people at their best. “Donuts make people happy,” she says, “and it gives me something to think about instead of the incident.”
She is taking life one day at a time. “I have to keep going for my children. They need me to be strong for them.”