ATLANTA, Ga. -- Angela Merritt of Ellenwood said her son was "doing fine, responsive, just really being himself," in the emergency room of Grady Memorial Hospital on April 9, 2008.

An innocent bystander, Sheroid Merritt had been hit in the face by a stray bullet while standing outside a Lovejoy Walmart with some friends.

She said he was not seriously injured.

Two days later doctors decided to wire his jaw shut, but something went terribly wrong.

When Sheroid came out of what was supposed to be routine surgery he was in a coma.

"We were told that he had lost 7 or 8 minutes of oxygen and it was massive brain injury," his mother told 11 Alive News.

His parents say he was basically an infant.

"It was 24-hour care, 7 days a week; we never got a break," said his father, Patrick.

"My wife actually took off about 9 months from work," he added.

Unsatisfied with the hospital's explanations, the Merritt's filed a medical malpractice lawsuit.

March 27th a DeKalb County jury found in their favor and awarded them $17.5-million.

In a statement to 11 Alive on Friday, Grady Health System disagreed with the verdict and said it will appeal.

It argued Sheroid was partly responsible for his lack of oxygen during the procedure.

"Following surgery, Mr. Merritt emerged violently from anesthesia and began fighting with the physicians and other medical providers and ultimately pulled out his breathing tube," the hospital statement added.

The family's attorney blamed the hospital for breaking its own rules by not having enough staff involved and for bringing Sheroid out of unconsciousness too quickly.

"They didn't follow their own plan on how to give him and administer anesthesia; as a result of that, that's why he became combative and agitated," said Shean Williams of the Cochran law firm.

Now 25, Sheroid's parents say he's made a lot of progress with speech and physical therapy, but still has difficulty talking and can't write.

"He's continued to get better every day and I believe God that he's gonna continue to get better," said his father, Patrick.

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