by Lynn Mandaville
A little over 48 hours ago, one James Hodgkinson decided that the appropriate redress of his (unknown to us) grievances was to shoot down Republican congressmen who were out on an early morning enjoying baseball practice.
The number of topics this one incident raises are many. For now, my brain can focus on only one, and that one because it is so terribly straightforward to comprehend. It is the unspeakable destruction that one bullet has wreaked upon one human body, that of Steven Scalise, the Republican Whip.
The bullet from the high-powered rifle entered his body at his left hip and tore a transverse path through his pelvic cavity. Take a minute and look down at your own pelvic area. Imagine a projectile entering your flesh from the left and smashing through that big bony plate that shields the soft organs of your abdomen, before it and the bony shrapnel it has created tears through those organs, in an ever-widening path, five to ten times the width of that bullet, and smashes the other bony plate of your pelvic girdle. The shrapnel has torn to shreds your urinary bladder, several feet of your lower colon, parts of your rectum, the large, rich veins and arteries which supply oxygen to your spine and lower extremities, and the nerves of your sacrum and coccyx.
Basically, the Grand Central Station that connects your upper torso to the limbs that propel your body through the world has been blasted to smithereens. Your blood — what there is left of it — has become acidic. Thirty to 70% of injuries such as these are fatal.
The news media doesn’t tell us of those horrors. Only that Scalise is in critical condition and will require more surgeries. Based on what I have surmised through cursory online searching, Scalise will never be the man he was. Can doctors rebuild a human bladder whose musculature functions normally? Or will he wear an ostomy bag of some kind for the rest of his life? Can doctors stave off the peritonitis that will develop in his abdominal cavity from the contents of his colon spilling into it? Will the nerves regenerate which allow motion and feeling in his lower digestive tract, his legs, his reproductive organs? Can a human pelvis be reconstructed from the “pottery shards” to which it has been reduced?
I’m not a doctor. I don’t know the fine points of what Scalise faces. If he survives, will he suffer chronic pain for the rest of his life? For how many years will doctors attempt reconstructive and repair work on him? What about his mental health, the depression that commonly accompanies such serious injury? And what about the collateral damage, the effects on his wife and children, his extended family and his colleagues? I shudder at the thought.
The shred of positivism in all this is that Scalise has good health insurance. For an ordinary citizen this type of catastrophe would bankrupt a family dozens, if not scores of times over. (A topic for another day.) The Scalices will at least be spared that indignity.
For now we can only join our heads and hearts together in a common prayer that Steve Scalise has a relatively uneventful and quick recovery. And perhaps as the days move forward we can also join our heads and hearts together in a common effort to deal maturely with the headier subjects of gun and health legislation. May the blessings of the universe be upon us all.