More than two months after a brutal home invasion and shooting that nearly killed him, Yousef Balbeisi is thankful for his life, his wife and for the community that rallied to save him.
Friday, Sept. 7, 2012
Written by Walter Pierce
Yousef Balbeisi plays dead. He would die otherwise. With a ragged exit wound the size of a half dollar from a .32 caliber bullet leaking like a sieve near his naval, he is slipping into unconsciousness. But the men, a pair of anonymous cliché bad guys who had smashed through his front door on Mimosa Drive looking for quick cash, are hanging around. They have ransacked the house, gotten what they could. Yet they linger.
Moments earlier one of the men put a gun to Yousef’s head. “Let me just put a bullet in his head and get it over with,” Yousef recalls him saying. But the other one, the one who had shot him in the lower back in the blur of a struggle Yousef is pained to recall, mutters, “No, he’s already bleeding to death. He’s dying.”
They would wait for the only witness to their crime to die. Then they would leave. Dead witnesses don’t talk.
So Yousef slumps over.
It works. The bad guys walk away, off into the night with about $35, three DVDs and a BB gun that belonged to Yousef’s 9-year-old son. He waits nearly a minute before staggering next door, then to the next house and to the next. Neighbors had heard the gunshot and want nothing to do with death and dying on a dark, muggy Monday morning. To Yousef, released from Our Lady of Lourdes on Aug. 25, nearly two months after the shooting (he granted an interview to Ind Monthly on Aug. 17), the episode lasted nearly a half hour. It probably only lasted minutes.
“The last I remember I was talking to the ambulance people, the nurse, saying, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it. Please, if you get in touch with my family, ask them to take care of my son,’” Yousef recalls in a charming Arabic accent. “And I did my prayers and that was the last I remember. Two weeks later I wake up in New Orleans.”
The July 2 home invasion and shooting of 31-year-old Yousef Balbeisi, youngest sibling of 13, six brothers of whom live in Lafayette and own a thriving restaurant business, barely registered in the news. It was a heinous, callous crime. But the public was still captivated by the Mickey Shunick disappearance. Word was leaking that an arrest in the Shunick case was imminent. It would come three days later when cops apprehended a monster named Brandon Scott Lavergne, who is already breaking rocks at Angola where he will live out his days.
A police spokesman said Sept. 4 that investigators handling the Balbeisi shooting are “currently awaiting evidence being processed at the crime lab.”
Yousef lost 90 percent of his blood by the time doctors got him stabilized. He passed so close to death his family was told on several occasions to make funeral arrangements.
But in the days he spent in Lafayette, before doctors here decided he needed more acute, aggressive care in New Orleans, Lafayette rallied for Yousef Balbeisi. Dozens turned out for blood drives, filling the refrigerators at Lourdes.
“The two days he was in Lafayette afterwards, they were so happy here in the hospital,” says Yousef’s wife, Hannah Smith Balbeisi, who has remained at his side throughout the ordeal. “We told them, ‘It’s going to fill up.’ Non-stop we kept them busy, all day.” And for days after. The surplus donated on Yousef’s behalf has helped pay down his astronomical medical bills.
|Yousef Balbeisi, center, is flanked by brother Nidal Balbeisi and
wife Hannah Smith Balbeisi.
Yousef remembers none of this. None of the community response. None of the earnest bedside prayers or muted discussions among surgeons who were certain he wouldn’t pull through. He woke up two weeks later in a New Orleans hospital room to begin a physically and mentally excruciating recovery. Nidal Balbeisi, the de facto patriarch of the Balbeisi clan in Lafayette, the eldest brother who emigrated to the U.S. from Jordan in 1994 with $97 in his pocket and since arriving in Lafayette in 2001 has established the Zeus and Agave restaurant brands, was at Yousef’s bedside when he emerged from the coma.
“Back in 2005 when I had my [car] accident, I woke up after six hours and Nidal was in my face, and when I woke up this time Nidal was right there,” Yousef recounts. “He raised me. I’m the baby.”
The bullet entered Yousef’s lower back just above the right buttock and exited his abdomen. Initially doctors couldn’t do an MRI due to bullet fragments still in his body. The bullet shattered his pelvis and tore through his colon and intestine, barely missing a major artery. He’s about 25 pounds lighter now than he was when he fell asleep on the sofa July 2, and he has three or four more surgeries remaining over the next couple of years. But for such a bad thing, so many things went right.
“Somehow I want to appreciate these people — the guys who shot me — because me and my wife, we were separated, and after the accident we got back together,” Yousef says, seated beside a wide window overlooking a rainy Lourdes parking lot, Hannah nearby. “This is one of the good things that happened. The second is it really opened my eyes that people here really care about us and really love us. You know that people love you, but I did not know that people really cared about me that much.”
Yousef was kept alive in the harrowing days after the shooting by blood donated by friends, family and by strangers — 14 pints in just the first 12 hours after the shooting. The average person has about 10 pints of blood circulating in the body. All of the blood in Yousef Balbeisi once belonged to someone else.
“There is not enough words to cover the feeling,” he adds, his voice wavering with emotion. “Now I can call Lafayette as my hometown.”
“He has Lafayette’s blood,” Nidal adds wryly. “He’s a true Cajun now.”
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The new tool for breast cancer detection
A new tool to beat runner’s pain
Gaza truce unravels; Cantor exits early; immigration bill fails and more national and international news for Friday, August 1, 2014.
The City-Parish Council on Tuesday will be asked to sign off on an agreement between UL Lafayette and Lafayette Consolidated Government that would expand mass transit opportunities for UL students by adding five additional buses to its shuttle run between Cajun Field and campus.
Louisiana's high school seniors are making increased strides on Advanced Placement exams.
The Alabama game is sold out but tickets for all other homes games can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net.
Among the one-percenters nationally, Louisiana's fattest cat is a relative pauper.
The Republican governor sent a letter Thursday to the president, saying placement of the children in Louisiana could have "potential negative ramifications."
Many laws are minor, though some impact health care options, change educational programs and reach into people's everyday activities.
Responding to Tuesday’s federal appeals court decision to save Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic, Esquire magazine profiles the unique story behind one of the doctors working at the clinic in Jackson.
In reacting to the recently resurrected allegations of sexual abuse among local clergy, is the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette maintaining its old stance of protecting their own?
Louisiana's annual state sales tax holiday is Friday and Saturday.
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.