The First Time I ... Treated a Gunshot Victim

Dr. John Green
Trauma and critical care surgeon, F. H. "Sammy" Ross Trauma Center at Carolinas Medical Center

Dr. John Green

Chris Edwards

The first serious gunshot wound I treated as a trauma surgeon was a young man who was mugged going home from the grocery store. He came into the hospital awake and able to talk, but I could see immediately that he needed surgery. He had received a gunshot below his ribcage, right over his liver, a life- threatening wound.

That case hit home before we even took him into the operating room. He looked up at me and said two things: "Don't let me die," and, "Please call my mother." It was a humbling wake-up call for a young, aggressive trauma surgeon. I was fresh out of training, about thirty-three, and this guy was only five years younger than me. He told me he was a student at the community college, going back to school to get a job, and I remember thinking that he seemed like he was on the right track in life. Suddenly, he was in my emergency department, bleeding to death.

Getting control of any bleeding blood vessel is a challenge, particularly the vena cava, because it's the largest vein in the body and it's very deep in the abdomen. After opening his abdomen, I had to rotate the intestine up to locate the wound, and the bleeding was just torrential. We finally got control of the bleeding. At that point, you have to take a deep breath and realize that everything might actually be OK.

I had promised him that I would call his mother (which we did), and that I wouldn't let him die, so it was really one of those terrific victories you can have as a trauma surgeon. But they don't all turn out that way. I never have any idea what I'm getting into when I go to work in the morning. The pager goes off, and suddenly it's not all about you anymore. —As told to Annie Monjar

By the Bullet
In 2009, In Charlotte:

  • 255 gunshot incidents were reported to CMPD
  • 281 individuals received gunshot wounds in those incidents
  • 50 of those died instantly
  • 183 were seriously injured
  • 19 of the 281 were under 18

SOURCE: CMPD Crime Analysis Division

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