ERLANGER, Ky. -- The body of 17-year-old Cameron Huber is scattered across 500 miles: Half his skull preserved in a Maryland hospital freezer, the rest of him kept alive by a continual IV intake of antibiotics in Erlanger.
He tries to be forgiving toward the shooter who split him in two.
"It helps me live happier," he said Tuesday. "I don't believe in living off pain and hate."
But it's hard, his mother said: Hard to watch her left-handed son with a useless left hand struggle to brush his own teeth or to eat without making the meal an addition to his wardrobe. He was supposed to graduate from high school in March; he's now completing his diploma at an alternative education center in Florence.
All he had done, Huber said, was try to stop a mugging.
Huber and his friend were standing in a hallway at Erlanger's Sunset Terrance Apartments Feb. 19 when the shooter approached them with a gun in hand, he said. When that shooter first threatened his friend and then pulled the trigger, Huber stepped in the way.
"He was my friend," Huber said. "I didn't want my friend to get hurt. I wanted him to see his mom and give her a hug and tell her that he loved her."
The bullet pierced his right eye and exited through the back of his skull. According to Huber, only one of the doctors who treated him at the University of Cincinnati Hospital initially expected him to survive. He spent several days in a coma; when he woke, his body wasn't what it had been before.
"They had to take my skull out because when the bullet went through my head, my brain was going to swell," he said.
Months of rehabilitation and treatment passed without any apparent progress in the Erlanger Police Department's investigation of the shooting. When Huber returned home April 18, no suspects had yet been identified.
It wasn't until his mother shared his story on Facebook that police received a tip.
"At one point it had 2,300 shares and then 2,800 shares, and I couldn't believe it," she said.
The suspect, whose identity we have not disclosed because of their age, surrendered to police Monday after a four-hour standoff.
"I hope he learns that this isn't okay," Cameron Huber said.
That arrest and the support their family has received from thousands of strangers gives Nichole Huber hope, but she and Cameron both know that they've got a long road ahead.
Cameron Huber's head now slopes where the skull was removed, and the left side of his body is partially numb -- he smiles with only one side of his face, and his right eye is closed in a permanent wink. The missing piece of skull will hopefully be reattached in the future, he said.
In the meantime, his mother created a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medical care. Although she works, she said, helping a son with such severe injuries on his journey to recovery is a significant expense.
As of Tuesday night, the Huber family had raised more than half of their $5,000 goal -- a heartening sign for a mother still looking at a future she never would have imagined.
"I have gotten a lot of love from everybody who just cares about Cameron and they care about me, and they want us to know we are not alone," she said.