HOUSTON — "It’s been a nightmare."
It's every parent's worst fear: getting a call from their child and hearing the words, "I've been shot."
Her daughter, Sydney Leday, made the call in the wee hours that morning. She was shot in the head when bullets flew outside a bowling alley in downtown Houston. The shots rang out when Houston police said a group of people got into an argument over a dice game. Migos rapper TakeOff was killed in the shooting.
Leday had turned 24 two days prior to the shooting. She was out with friends celebrating the personal milestone as well as Halloween. Her mother was the first thing she thought about when she got in the car and her friend started driving to the hospital.
Leday said the argument between the people playing dice escalated quickly and she started to run. That's when shots were fired outside the 810 Billiards and Bowling Alley. Leday said she fell to the ground and felt a stinging sensation in the back of her head. She said she somehow made it down an escalator and to a friend's car, who took her to the hospital. Fortunately, they were only 12 minutes away from Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Leday remembers everything that happened, down to the detail of calling her mom on the way to the hospital that night. She said she made that call just before she had a seizure.
"I remember what happened because I was up the whole time after I got shot in the head and I called my mom and told her what happened and told her to come (to the hospital)," she said.
That's where the story started for Lowery.
"Whenever she is not home and she goes out, I’m constantly up. I’m walking around and that particular night I just sat down on the side of the bed and when the phone rang, I just knew it was something," Lowery said. "So, I had to call my mom, call my sisters, tell my husband, not that she’s been shot in the head, but we got to go now."
The nightmare was just beginning for the family. When they got to the hospital, police had them wait outside in the cold and rain for seven hours to make sure everything was safe. They just wanted to know if their loved one was OK.
"We stood outside in the cold and rain under the carport with the police because we couldn’t go in for, like, seven hours," Lowery said. "Seven hours is a long time and the police were trying to be as helpful as they could but they didn’t know her situation because they were out there with me and they had to secure the hospital...Not knowing who the shooters were. Not knowing if they were followed to the hospital."
Lowery said her daughter was being treated at the hospital under an alias in order to keep her safe. After the long wait, they were finally allowed to go check on her.
"She had a tube (in her mouth). To me, she looked like she was dead," Lowery said. "Me being a mom...just something I'll never forget."
She said Leday woke up for the first time the following day. She wanted to leave the hospital so doctors kept her sedated so she could heal.
The healing for Lowery was about to start over. When she posted a GoFundMe to help with her daughter's medical expenses, it was like reopening an old wound. She hadn't told many people about what happened, and when they saw what Leday was going through, "it was like everything started over."
"You know, my family, I didn’t share a lot of things with my family because it was so much going on and once I did post the GoFundMe, it was like everything started over," Lowery said.
"It was coming back all over again, which we knew it was going to happen but it's just like you're having those emotions all over again," Leday said.
Lowery said taking care of her daughter was tough. Leday was having nightmares. She was constantly nauseated and didn't have an appetite. She had anxiety and would start crying out of nowhere. She was afraid.
"As a mother, I’m sheltering her from the TV. I’m keeping her phone so she’s not on social media. She’s not seeing the pictures from that night. She’s not reading all these comments," Lowery said.
Lowery's 7-year-old daughter started asking questions: Where was her sissy?
"So, I’m telling her, you know she knew she was in the hospital, but I’m telling her 'sissy has a headache, but she will be fine,'" Lowery said. "She knew something was going on but she’s only 7."
Leday has always had big dreams. She got her associate's degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA and started her own jewelry business during the pandemic. She has always had a knack for being creative.
“I do know things happen for a reason, so I still have hope for my future,” Leday said.
Lowery said she's still seeking closure from the incident. On top of the hospital bills, her peace of mind is another priority.
"As a mother whose child has been shot in this manner and the way this has happened –- I do want answers. I want accountability," Lowery said.
Waverly Nolley is the attorney representing the family. He said security measures at the private party were lacking.
"A private party such as this is something that doesn’t occur all the time, therefore, you should employ more measures than normal," Nolley said. "This is a private crowd, and you know with a private crowd you won’t have as much control."
Born and raised in Houston, the community Leday was brought up in is now rallying around her recovery. They're raising money to help pay for her medical bills.