Aaron grad picture

Aaron's Story - Told by his mom, Steffi Stehwien

In order for you to fully understand the driving force behind my "Fight against Violence", especially YOUTH VIOLENCE... please read the following story...

My Son Aaron Shoulders graduated from high school in June and celebrated his 18th birthday on July 24th, 2003. Aaron was a sensitive, kind and compassionate young man. Very loyal, responsible and mature. He was highly motivated and had many goals and dreams.

His discipline was evident, as he had dedicated 3 ½ years to weight lifting and body-building in high school. Aaron had chosen to become a welder and was registered with the Government of Canada for his 3-year apprenticeship through SAIT.

On August 16, 2003 my son Aaron and I had planned to watch movies at home. Aaron loved Blizzards from the Dairy Queen and had asked me to pick some up. At around 8:30 PM Aaron's friend called him to go to the club dancing (my Son loved to dance), which they had planned around Aaron's 18th Birthday, to celebrate. I gave him a ride and dropped him off at his friend’s house around 9pm. Aaron told me that he would come home, but it would be late. He was always so good at letting me know when and where he was going, and if he’d be home or not.

That same evening I had a very restless night for some reason. I fell asleep but woke at about 2:30 am. My stomach was so upset that I went to the store and picked up some ginger ale. I could not sleep for a long time and finally fell asleep again at 5am. At 7:05 am I was woken up by a phone call. Still half asleep, I did not understand much at first until I heard my son's name and that Aaron had been involved in an altercation and was in ICU at the Foothills Hospital. It was the surgeon on the phone, telling me to come right away. I had asked if my son was going to be okay, but he would not answer me.

Against all instructions from Aaron's doctor, I drove to the hospital in tears, praying.... having no idea what I was going to see. I called my girlfriend from the car, to pray and call to get the prayer chain started. Only God could help now.

I arrived at ICU and was told to wait for the police and the doctor to come and talk to me. The police could not tell me much, other than Aaron tried to stop a fight that was started in NYLAS nightclub between his friend and about 20 Asians. The bouncers kicked my son and his friends out on the street without calling the police. Being outdoors with no security near by, my son became their victim. He was attacked by about 12 Asians and stabbed once, slicing all his main organs. The police officer had to stay by Aaron’s bedside for 24 hours in case it turned into a homicide.

The doctor who operated on Aaron told me he had done all he could and there was nothing more he could do. He told me to call the family, since he did not know if Aaron would make it through the day. The surgeon answered my questions and started to give me all the details surrounding Aaron’s condition... I broke down in disbelief... Aaron had lost all of his blood by the time he was in the ambulance! My son was given 70 units of blood from which the first 51 spilled out faster than it could be given to him (the average body holds only 6 units of blood). The stab wound had cut his main artery and five other arteries... even though Aaron suffered only one stab wound, it was deadly! Later, I also found out that my son was curb stomped, head and hands and brutally beaten as well.

The doctor told me I could now see my son. What a gruesome sight... I had no idea what to expect... my baby laying helpless hooked up to life support and all the tubes and machines... his head swollen almost double the size and the rest of his body puffed up like a balloon... his chest cut open from top to his groin... all of his organs laying on top of his chest...motionless. I touched my babies hand, his body was ice cold... no eye movement at all... only the machines breathing and pumping his heart. Who could have done something this callous to another human being, especially to Aaron …my son who was always the peace maker???

For over 24 hours they could not stop the bleeding and more plasma had to be given. I was warned there was a possibility that Aaron's chest had to stay open for some time. It seemed hopeless and it felt like my son was dead without the life support machines. Only God could help Aaron now... so my girlfriend and I laid hands on Aaron and prayed... Aaron responded to our prayer and stayed with us.

Over the next few days there were some positive changes, but also many challenges. The swelling went down... the bleeding finally stopped... another surgery... the many damaged organs were repaired and his chest was closed, with exception of the entry wound, which required a special dressing... my son was still on life support and in a coma. We continued to pray for a miraculous recovery.

I found out 2/3 rd’s of Aaron's one kidney had died due to lack of blood supply, and the only reason that his other kidney was OK, was because he had an extra artery. Only one artery supplies both kidneys... in Aaron's case, he had 2 arteries leading to his kidneys, which is rare. Pneumonia had now set in... the blood issue, not having any of his own blood, three different blood factors... his heart had to be clamped for over an hour to repair the main artery. So many odds against us. Another possible surgery...The agony of watching my Son suffer, continued... with more complications to come!

Only glimpses of hope... after days in ICU, Aaron finally woke up... but still on life support. Due to the pneumonia the focus was getting my son breathing on his own. Now there was a problem with his liver, and each day Aaron's skin and eyes turned more yellow. Once Aaron could breathe on his own, he was transferred to the trauma unit.

Aaron told me of his experience in the ambulance and the first few days in ICU, before he woke up. In his own words, "mom I seen it all, there was a bright light, so bright, it was coming toward me and it was so beautiful... and I saw a hand pull me back". He told me that he watched people work on him in the ambulance and in the operating room.

After my son was transferred to the trauma unit, Aaron told me he wanted to talk to the police, but he quickly changed his mind. Aaron told me he was so scared, they messed him up so badly and was afraid they would come after him again... it was 12 Asians that attacked him.. he said.

Aaron requested to see a pastor and ask for prayer... he wanted me to read to him from the Bible on my visits, which I did... my son told me he was so afraid, and on Friday, August 29th he gave his heart to the Lord and made his peace with God.

The doctors told me Aaron would continue to be in critical condition, even though he appeared to be getting better, but there were still “many things” that could go wrong. They started him on a liquid diet and had him walk to the bathroom. By Sunday August 30th, Aaron was eating solid food and was scheduled to go outside, which he looked forward too, being that he was in hospital for 2 weeks now. His skin and eyes continued to turn more yellow each day.

Aaron was taken outside on Sunday afternoon and visited with my daughter and her boys and my newborn granddaughter (born the day after Aaron was stabbed). The same Pastor that came to pray with him that one day, also came to see him again and to continue to pray with him. After he looked at the beautiful sky, he wanted to go inside... and that he had seen enough. The liver specialists came to talk to Aaron about the tests and procedures they would do Monday morning... his liver was in trouble... a possible cut in the liver too. As the nurse came to change his dressing my son told me his liver was fine and he was coming home tomorrow... his nurse whispered to me that it was good to be hopeful. She told Aaron that if he wants to go home he would have to do more walking and sit in his chair more and not stay in bed all the time. He agreed.

I watched my healthy 6 foot 4", 215 pound Son, waste away to nothing in 15 days... he was so thin and weak and I was completely helpless... for a Mother to feel helpless as she watches her child waste away is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Sunday night I wanted to stay with Aaron... I was so tired and the bed next to him was empty... Aaron said it was up to me , but it was against hospital rules... we spent some time together watching TV... Aaron was very quiet... about 9:30 PM, I unwilling left to get some sleep, feeling uneasy and restless about going home...

Through the 15 days I had always called in the middle night to see how Aaron was doing, (I couldn’t sleep anyway) but this night I fell asleep. A phone call woke me at 7:15am it was the doctor from the Foothills Trauma Unit... with only 2 hours of sleep I was trying to wake up and collect my thoughts, she told me that Aaron had passed away... I could not believe what I was hearing, and now my worst nightmare had become a reality.

The nurse checked him at 5:30 am and Aaron was awake and talking, and all was well, she told him she would be back in 20 minutes... when the nurse returned my Son was not breathing and his heart stopped... all attempts to revive my Son failed...

Aaron died at 6 am on September 1, 2003. He was right when he told us the previous day that he was coming home…we just didn’t clue in which “home” he was speaking of.

Aaron was brutally attacked by 12 Asian men and stabbed once in the chest... suffered for 15 days... murdered violently, while approx. 1000 people watched nearby (all the clubs closing down for the night)... Senselessly murdered, all because he was trying to help his friends.. trying to stop a fight... Being bullied for years as a young boy, Aaron absolutely hated fighting... he loved peace... he was always for the underdog in any situation…..just ask the young girls at the school dance who had no one to dance with. This was Aaron!!! Kindhearted, loving and peaceful to all.

How can any human do such a horrific evil act to another human??... I will never understand! How and why is anyone allowed to carry such a "LETHAL WEAPON" a "KNIFE", and it be taken so lightly. Why is it that a gun is considered a ‘deadly’ weapon with such strict gun laws, but knives go un-noticed? And yet they kill just the same with more torturous effects, and knives continue to be the weapon of choice among the criminals.

Our young men are dying... Who will protect us...who will protect our innocent children from this murderous weapon???

No Justice to this day for Aaron Shoulders... the killer(s) are still roaming free... many witnesses and yet no one is talking... everyone walks around so desensitized, until it happens to them.

As a Mother, I cannot even begin to express the pain I felt in watching my Son suffer and die, the pain of not ever hearing my child walk through the door as you wait up for Him to come home, the pain of not seeing my Son marry and have children of his own, the pain I carry knowing my Son’s killer still walks the streets, the pain of cruel people not understanding a Mother’s loss and the permission of grief, the pain of no longer having him at my side sharing and talking about our day. It is simply “not natural” for a parent to bury her child, it’s supposed to be the other way around! My onlycomfort in this whole entire tragedy is that one-day, I will see my Son again, as we meet in Heaven.

My Son, Aaron Shoulder (on his death bed) left this Message for his peers " Don't go to the Clubs... the people that go there are not there to have fun!" and " Live your LIFE for GOD, you never know what can happen".



"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Aaron's Story