Two years ago Mario Chothen was going about his normal routine for his security job in downtown Des Moines. Chothen was escorting a man from a nightclub and started getting threatened by the man. Things escalated very quickly and Chothen was shot by the man three times, once in the stomach, once in the tricep, and once in his right thigh. Chothen underwent four surgeries, three on his right knee and one on his stomach. Chothen is still undergoing recovery to this day, both physically and mentally.
When asked about how Chothen felt after surviving, Chothen had many thoughts. He explained that he had played football for twenty years, and because of that he was already starting to have after-effects settle in on his health, along with the fact that Chothen is approaching his thirties. On top of those factors, there are now the effects with having been shot weighing in on his health. One of the bullets that Chothen got shot with shattered his femur. Because of that, Chothen has to have a steel rod in his leg for the rest of his life, and he also has arthritis setting in. During this time of the year with the cold, wet weather and the barometric pressure causes a constant ache and pain in Chothen’s knee and leg. There are still bullet fragments in Chothen’s body that were not able to be removed that will have a possible effect later in his life, too. Chothen stated, “Time is not on my side anymore … I’m never going to be what I once was.” Chothen is coming to terms with all of this, however, and is learning to cope and make the best out of what he has right now. He has joined a wheelchair basketball team that plays games regularly and competes with other teams. Chothen was also lead back to school at DMACC to continue his education and to become a journalist.
Having survived being shot three times, Chothen’s view on life has changed. Chothen comes from inner city, south side Chicago and moved to Ames, Iowa. “Death was very common for me. A gunshot was like a doorbell in my neighborhood growing up.” Chothen explained. Chothen expressed that for him, Iowa was supposed to be greener pastures, because Iowa has a lower crime and murder rate than Chicago. Chothen expressed that he saw irony in the act that he escaped Chicago, pretty much unscathed, just to get shot in Iowa. “I would say that I am more aware, but is that the kind of awareness you want? To believe that things could escalate to the point of no return? I went from arguing with someone to now fighting for my life.” Chothen expressed.
When asked what Chothen wished people knew about surviving being shot, Chothen simply said “It’s not like the movies. There are no rolling credits, no girl coming over to say ‘you’re my hero’, it’s not a cliche. You don’t get to get up and limp away. It’s scary, you learn fear, and you learn who you are in that moment.”