Nov 15, 2005 10:37 am US/Central
Beating Victim Welcomed Back To School
(WCCO) St. Paul Two months after he was beaten into a coma, a 13-year-old St. Paul boy is back in school.
Classmates and teachers at Highland Park Junior High School gave Michael Duong a warm welcome back to class Monday, and they're calling his early return a miracle.
In anticipation of Duong's arrival, students decorated signs reading "Welcome Back Michael" and "Get Well Soon" and displayed them on school walls.
Duong's return wasn't totally hitch-free, however.
"My bus was in the wrong spot, so I was late for school," Duong said.
When he finally arrived, "I didn't know my locker combination, because my brain and stuff got hit," he said.
Duong was beaten so badly in September, he spent several weeks in a coma. Police believe gang members mistook the boy for a rival gang member and beat him with a baseball bat.
"I thought he'd never come to school again," one classmate said.
Now that he's beaten the odds, his return to seventh grade is a cause for celebration.
"It was just wonderful to see a young person come from where he was to walk into that door," health teacher Sherida Aaron said.
"It's been awesome," Duong said. "I get to meet my friends and stuff ... having people congratulate me back to school."
Duong's teachers are easing him back to the classroom, not knowing the extent of his capabilities following his severe head injury.
Even Duong admits he's not quite as sharp as he used to be.
"I can't think that fast no more, 'cause I have an injured head," Duong said.
Police believe Duong was attacked by gang members because he wore a red shirt and they mistook him for a rival.
Duong wore a red shirt proudly on his first day back in class, as did others in a sign of support.
Minnesota Vikings players Michael Bennett and T.J. Cottrell were set to visit the school Tuesday in Duong's honor.
Duong's family has accumulated more than $500,000 in hospital bills. His mother is a cook at a restaurant, and the family has no health insurance.
A school fundraiser earlier this month raised $11,000 to help alleviate his family's expenses.
If you're interested in helping the Duong family, donations can be made at any Wells Fargo bank in care of the Michael Duong Custodial Trust.