Thursday, February 11, 2010
What follows are the words of Glen Rhodes. He tells of his experience... and it's a story that every shooter should listen to.
Glen and I have traded a few E-mails, and he was kind enough to tell me his story. I suggested it's something more people should hear about, and offered 'Carteach0' as an outlet. Glen acquiesced and granted permission to share his words. I have not changed what he wrote, more than formatting it to suit the blog.
I was shot point blank in the chest Friday the 13th of July 2007, the bullet entered near the front edge of my left armpit about 4 in. to the left of my left nipple and about 2 in above it. The bullet traveled through my left lung destroying about 30% of it then the bullet nicked my aorta and heart sack it then ricocheted of of the inside front of my ribcage. It then tore through my diaphragm leaving a 3 in by 2 in hole in my diaphragm. From there it tore through my stomach destroying 3 acid ducts and causing me to lose about 20% of my stomach. From there the bullet nicked my liver and spleen then it traveled through the back third of my spinal cord canal from about the middle of T11 on my left side to about the middle of T12 where it exited my spinal canal and traveled about another inch to my right parallel with the skin of my back and came to rest. The bullet was a that was fired from a Glock model 17.
The reason that I did not bleed out from the damage to my lung and aorta was that the muzzle blast occurred inside my chest cavity instantly cauterizing them. I flat-lined 4 times that day. The first time was when I was shot the shock wave caused my heart to stop for about 30 seconds. That is a scary feeling, I was conscious and I could feel that there was a very strange and scary still feeling in my chest. (You don't normally notice when your heart is beating in your chest, but when it is not you SURE AS HELL DO.) I was laying there thinking "I am already dead I just don't know it yet." Then for some reason my heart started back up on it's own. the second time that I flat-lined was in the ambulance. I thought that I blinked and the next thing that I know I feel my body jolt and I open my eyes to see a paramedic lifting the paddles from my chest and he was saying "He's back." the last 2 where in the operating room while I was unconscious so I have no idea what happened there.
This was all caused by a fellow soldier who was being stupid and playing with his personal handgun. The pic of clothing that you see is my uniform top. The police department did not return the handgun which is a Glock 17 to the owner John. Instead the dept had me fill out the paperwork for a background check and handed the gun over to me. I know that it was an accident and I worked with the police dept and the district attorney to not press charges, yeah he was stupid but it was an accident. When I was being taken to the ambulance I had reached out and grabbed John's hand and told him "John I forgive you." At present he is stationed in Iraq, and we are still friends.
Part of the reason other than him pointing a gun at something other than what we wanted to shoot was due to improper safety procedures by him as well. While we had been talking he had removed the mag and cleared the weapon. Later when we were getting ready to head out he had replaced the magazine in the weapon but had not chambered it. He then set the weapon down and did some other things he then picked up the weapon and opened the slide at an angle that allowed him to see into the chamber and see that it was clear but not enough of an angel to see the loaded mag. When he released the slide the weapon chambered. We all are at fault for not double checking each others weapons not just John. After that John screwing around pointed it against my blouse and against my chest. The next second, he already being a dumbass for pointing a weapon at someone he didn't intend to destroy, he pulled the triger. I saw the look on his face when the weapon went off, which is why I know that it was an accident. I went in less than a second from a 6ft 4in healthy infantryman to a paraplegic fighting to stay alive. At this point he went basically clinically hysterical and was useless.
I was lucky because at that point the wonderful Military Police soldier who was standing next to me had her training kick in and helped get my blouse and t-shirt off she then used the t-shirt to stop me from bleeding out and more air getting in my chest cavity delaying my lungs from collapsing. She then got me stabilized till paramedics arrived. The female soldier that kept her head straight working on keeping me alive is a wonderful person that I have known since January of 2000. When the gun went off she looked down and saw a wounded soldier laying on the ground instead of freaking out and seeing her husband on the ground dieing. Yes you heard me right I am her husband, and as of when I was shot we had been married 7 years.
I owe my life to her and I will never be able to repay her for that. I am writing this on 7 Feb 2010. As of 11 Feb we will have been married 10 years. I have since gotten out of the Army at the end of Nov of 2009. having served 2+ yrs after getting paralyzed. I tell my story often to people to try to help them be aware of how easily a firearms related mishap can happen. We were and are trained professionals, and we knew better. We just got too lax around firearms. Never let yourself be relaxed with your weapons. If my story can keep even one person from messing up and someone from getting injured then I feel what happened to me is worth it.
The next E-mail contained a few more details, and more of the story.....
There are a few things that weren't included in the story. I really value these, I don't usually include them in the story because some people just don't understand. The first is after Kacie (my better other half) had gotten me as stable as possible and we were waiting for the ambulance, she held my head in her hands and turned it so that we were looking eye to eye and said "Honey, please don't leave me." My response, which I will never forget was "I won't, I promise". That was the only time in my life that I was afraid that I might break a promises to her.
The other was about a minute after I was loaded into the ambulance I felt this sudden calm come over me and I knew that I would be alright. I found out later that at about that same time she had said a prayer. She isn't one to really pray very often, but we can both attest that prayers help. I rarely tell people that because too many times I have heard people say that prayers don't help.
Another thing that I forgot to tell you was that while the ambulance I had to laugh because they warned me that I might feel a little discomfort when they stuck me for my IV and with the chest decompression needle (I think it is called a pneumothorax needle). There are some things that we were able to do, which greatly improved my chances of surviving, that I would also like to pass on to the readers. Both Kacie and I were able to not freak out and panic, which kept my blood pressure from skyrocketing which would have caused me to bleed faster. As it is, by the time I was in surgery I had lost 4 units of blood. Also, not freaking out kept my breathing at a lower rate so that my chest cavity didn't fill up with air as fast.
The one thing that if they ever end up in an emergency is that no matter what stay calm. If you are having to deal with someone who has been injured, they will freak out more if they see you as the caretaker freaking out, than they would if you stay calm. Even if it is a loved one laying there you have a much better chance if you can see them in a different light. Kacie looked down and saw me in my uniform and her mind just clicked that she wasn't seeing her husband but a fallen battle buddy (fellow soldier). I know that her staying calm is what kept me calm.
Also, about a month before the accident she had gone through an Army CLS (Combat Life Saver) course which really helped. I would suggest that everyone try to attend a similar type training. It might give you the knowledge to save a life someday. Her instructor was very proud that the information he had taught her unit was taken to heart by her and put to practical use when it was needed.
I think that anyone who deals with or owns firearms in any way, should know how to treat different types of gunshot injuries. If you are ever interested in making a section to your blog about emergency medical care I would be more than happy to help you with any info I know or can find.
In the image that is attached it is about 2 weeks after the accident. My dad is there; he had traveled 18 hours straight to be with my wife and my mother when he found out that I had been shot. The thing that I am wearing is a TLSO (Thoracolumbosacral orthosis) say that ten times fast, I can barely get one time. It is an underarm type of back brace to keep my spine as straight as possible so that there was less risk of my spinal cord getting further damaged by the bits of sharp bone from going through the back of the T11 and T12 vertebra. The pic was taken about 2 weeks after the accident. I was in a medical induced coma for the first week.
I wanted to comment on you saying my wife is "one impressive lady"; she really is. There is a lot from working on the vehicles to house maintenance that I can no longer do. She has taken over a lot of my responsibilities, and add to that... she helps take care of me too. I don't think that I could have every been as lucky as I was to meet her.
Feel free to add my contact info to the article about my injury in case anyone has any questions. A few days after I woke up I realized that I had two ways that I could go from there. I could either lay there and waste away from depression or I could get up and keep going. I have a phrase that I live by now. "Never say quit, never say die." I really do hope that someone can learn from my injury and that it helps keep that from happening to someone else.
Now I have a few rules that I make damn sure are followed around me...
#1 When a firearm is cleared everyone in the room checks it not just the handler.
#2 Do not put a magazine in your weapon without alerting others around you. (physically stick your finger in the chamber area and make sure that there is not possibly a round, this is used as a double check. first look then feel.)
#3 Pay attention to barrel awareness, flagging (accidently or purposefully crossing someone with your muzzle) around me will defiantly get someone a "boot camp ass chewing" and possibly shot.
#4 No matter how trained and experienced your with weapons you can still screw up. (I find that sometimes people with more experience can be at a higher risk of messing up due to becoming lax with their firearms handling.
#5 Always keep yourself and others around in check about safety and have them keep you and each other in check as well. (If someone corrects you listen to them don't just blow them off and possibly get mad about being corrected, listen to them.)
Some personal observations from Glen regarding the performance of the bullet and round he was shot with... and I have to say... I am impressed with his ability to stand back and make professional judgments about something that nearly killed him...
First off when the gun fired it was against my chest and I was looking down at it and pretty much saw everything in slow motion. I was not braced or anything, I was just standing there. The impact did not push me back from the firearm more than about half an inch.
The bullet traveled about 18 inches through my body and It did not exit, however the path through me was quite erratic. I believe that this is due to the bullet tumbling and hitting different consistencies of mass as it hit different organs and bone. The entry hole was not really puffed up or anything like that (yes I am weird, I lifted the pressure dressing for a second to look at the entry hole) also I didn't really bleed for externally for about a minute as can be seen by the low amount of blood on the inside of my blouse.
My observation is that the Speer Gold Dot 9mm round is pretty effective for causing internal damage but when it mushrooms as seen in the picture the edges fold back so only the round inner is hitting the internal organs. As for "knockdown" it does not have very much power. I now do carry this type of round in my 1911 because I know that it works.
I'm not sure what I can add to Glen's story. Every one of the traditional four safety rules were broken, and this is what happened. Amidst the tragic outcome emerges a story of true character, bravery, and determination from both Glen and his wife, Kacie.
A story just like this could revolve around a car accident, a ski slope incident, or even just a wilderness hike turned deadly. This time, it was a firearm, and so carries a message that all shooters should take to heart.