One Month Later, Orlando Victim Endures Long Road To Recovery

Download Audio
This photo was taken roughly 30 minutes or so before the shooting started. Santos' brother Jeff is on the far left. (Courtesy of Santos Rodriguez III)
This photo was taken roughly 30 minutes or so before the shooting started. Santos' brother Jeff is on the far left. (Courtesy of Santos Rodriguez III)

On June 12, a Latin dance party at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando ended in tragedy. A gunman opened fire at Pulse, killing 49 people and injuring 53 more. One of those wounded was 37-year-old Jeff Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was shot three times, and he remains in Orlando Regional Medical Center one month later. Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson checks in with Rodriguez' stepbrother Santos for a glimpse of the grueling road to recovery that victims of gun violence face.

  • Santos has made a GoFundMe page to raise support for Jeff's medical and recovery expenses.

Interview Highlights: Santos Rodriguez III

On the text message thread with his stepbrother Jeff

"To be honest with you, I still can't believe I didn't believe him. Thinking about it I feel bad, and we laugh about it now. Even when I first saw him the first day I was like ‘Hey, yeah, I believe your texts, by the way.’ He moves his head like, ‘You idiot.’"

On how Jeff is doing now

“How do I say it? It's going to be a long recovery road for my brother here. He's doing a lot better from day one of course. He's had I think five or six surgeries, and they've all been very life-or-death-type situations. He's learning how to walk now. So it's kind of hard for him. He can't stand up for too long because he starts getting dizzy, he'll throw up. It's therapy three times a day. I know he had skin graft surgery three days ago. He has a big, big hole in his right leg. They had to cover that up.

He's able to talk. He's able to joke around a little bit. He's able to eat normal foods. But he still gets dizzy and he throws up every so often.”

On his stepbrother’s prognosis

"You know, when you go to the hospital you never come back 'normal.' That's for everyone. Right now he has problems with his right leg. He can move it and so forth, but they're trying to teach him how to use that leg again, how it was before. They said he should be able to walk. He should be able to do his things. He loves to dance. So we're hoping and praying that he goes back to the best that he can, to what he was before. The nurses and doctors did state he would get back to normal, but it would be a long road."

"To be honest, he's a lot stronger than I am... He's still in shock with the whole situation. He has his moments, everyone has their moments. Besides that he's doing pretty good."

Santos Rodriguez III, on his brother Jeff

On how Jeff is handling the situation

"To be honest, he's a lot stronger than I am. I still would have been screaming over there, like ‘Oh my god, my leg.’ He's still in shock with the whole situation. He has his moments, everyone has their moments. Besides that he's doing pretty good. Mentally, he's there, but like I said, it's a long road for recovery inside him, and so forth, like mental and everything."

On how his family is handling the situation

"We're doing good. We live about two hours away. So we have to drive two hours here and there. I know for the first three weeks I stayed in Orlando, making sure everything is okay and visiting him, massaging him and so forth, and helping with whatever he needs and getting things organized. So we're taking it day by day, but so far, knowing that he's a lot better, that he's alive, that took off a big load of weight there."

On the outpouring of help after the shooting

"You know, I think it's pretty cool how this, not just the country, but the whole world, just got together and just started helping, however they could. Too bad it has to be in a tragic situation. I wish it was like that all year round, like helping each other out, being kind to one another. It's pretty cool. I get a lot of emails, there’s like random people from U.K., California, Australia, it’s just a bunch of random people that message me to see how my brother is. And I update them with everything I can. I know it's kind of hard, so if they're listening, I'm sorry if I have a few emails if I have not replied to. It’s kind of hard, I have like 50 emails, on a daily basis."

On how he, Jeff and their family members are coping with what happened

"It just sucks to be honest with you. We're all still in shock about it. It's weird at the same time. It's sad. We're all still foggy a little bit about the situation."

On how the shooting has affected his daily life

"It's going to happen again. I know that for a fact. It's getting worse every day. My daily stuff has not changed, I know that. I know when I hear sirens, I get flashbacks of that night when we were in Orlando. So when I hear it, I just think of me and my father running down the street, right where Club Pulse was. That's the only thing that's changed."


Santos Rodriguez III, stepbrother of Jeff Rodriguez, who was shot at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last month. He tweets at @rod3s.

Below are the text messages Santos received from his stepbrother Jeff the night of the Pulse shooting. 

These are the text messages Santos Rodriguez III received from his brother Jeff the night of the Pulse shooting. (Santos Rodriguez III)

This segment aired on July 12, 2016.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live