Negligent discharge page

On January 19, 2008 I had a negligent discharge of my pistol. It's a Rock Island full size 1911. .45 ACP loaded with Federal Hydra Shok ammunition. This round utilizes a 230 grain jacketed hollow point bullet. This is a very good self defense round, because the bullets expand as they pass through material like animals and people.

I'm tempted to call it an "accidental discharge", but to me that implies that the gun fired without the trigger being intentionally pulled. That doesn't apply in this case. I intentionally pulled the trigger, I just neglected to unload the gun first.

The bullet entered my right inner thigh above the knee and exited the calf a couple of inches away lower and more to the rear of my thigh on my thigh.

Then it entered my inner right calf about 1 inch below my knee. It exited again from the outer side of my calf just to the right of the front of my leg, about halfway between my knee and ankle.

This picture shows my thigh with the entrance and exit wounds. These were taken the day after the incident.

The next two photos show close-ups of the first entry wound and the first exit wound

Here's a photo of my leg from above with the bandages

The next picture shows the third wound, which was the second entry wound.

The next two photos are of the last wound, the second exit wound. You can see that it is still swollen and it started bleeding when I removed the pressure bandage, as most of the rest of the wounds did somewhat.

A picture trying to show the size of the first entry wound. The camera angle is bad, but the caliper was set to the width of the hole.  12.47 mm is almost 1/2 inch. Luckily the bullet didn't expand. All bullet holes were basically the same size except the last exit hole which was a bit larger and ragged. I'm guessing that the bullet was tumbling by then, but have no way to know for sure.

This happened while I was seated at my reloading bench in my basement. Here are some photos of my basement showing the blood stains.

Yeah, I know my basement is a mess.

As soon as I figured out how badly I was bleeding, I pulled my jeans off. I was wearing long johns under the jeans. There was a bag of rags and towels nearby. I dug through and found a hand towel that would fit around my leg. I wrapped it around just under (or above - I can't remember) my knee, holding the ends and twisting to make a makeshift tourniquet. As I was doing this I was yelling up to my wife, who was watching TV in our bedroom to call 911, that I'd shot myself in the leg. I managed to get to the top of the stairs (the bloody footprints are from the blood soaked sock on my right foot). I laid on my back and propped my leg on a bucket we used to feed some neighborhood cats. I had a cold sweat on my forehead and was feeling weak. I was afraid that I'd pass out before help arrived and would bleed to death.

When the cops and EMTs arrived they had a problem. There was no room or light where I was laying. I told them to grab my good leg and drag me into the den. Most of the bleeding had stopped by then. A police officer took pictures of my leg. Nobody had to ask what happened because I kept repeating it over and over, along with a lot of cursing and asking out loud "How could I be so stupid?"

The EMTs had another problem. They couldn't get the gurney into my den. They were going to have to carry me into the kitchen. .One ran his arms under my armpits and grabbed my wrists. The other grabbed my ankles and they picked me up and carried me into the kitchen. They said "I'm sorry, this is going to hurt." I told them I knew they couldn't help it and it wasn't their fault because they didn't shoot me.

They got me in the ambulance. One EMT  hooked up a heart monitor and the other an I.V. By this time my daughter and her husband arrived. Their 6 year old  son, my grandson, stayed at home with a family friend. All he knew was that "Peepaw got shot."

Once we got to the hospital it was a while before I finally got some morphine. I'd  guess at least a half hour after the shooting, probably closer to 45 minutes. It didn't do anything for the pain. I had four injections of morphine while I was there.. They washed the blood off my leg and foot. The doctor came in and listened for a pulse in my foot for a long time, then got a Doppler unit to listen to it.

He sent me for X Rays to see if any bones were damaged. Somehow I managed to miss all of my bones. The bullet evidently passed BETWEEN the tibia and fibula in my lower leg. I found out later that there are 2 large pieces left in my leg. I don't think I'll ever find out if they are lead, copper or a combination of the two.

The doctor said that I didn't damage any bones, that he had talked to a surgeon that that they were concerned that I may have damaged an artery enough to weaken it and that I'd have to have a test to find out. A damaged artery could fail later causing an  aneurysm. They wrapped my leg with pressure bandages, gave me prescriptions for Keflex (an antibiotic) and 40 Lortab pain pills and sent me home.

This picture shows the parts of the bullet that I found in my basement.. Somewhere is the other half of the copper jacket and a bunch of lead. The pieces look bigger in the picture than they really are.

There is 4 grains of lead here and 25.5 grains of the jacket. Grains is a measurement of weight. There are 7,000 grains in a pound and 437.5 grains in and ounce. The bullet weighed 230 grains. These fragments represent  12.82% of the bullet's weight.87.8% of it is missing. I know that some of it is in my leg. How much? Is it lead or copper?

This incident happened because I got so used to handling guns and taking them apart and putting them together that safety measures became automatic. This is a good thing when you're talking about keeping your finger away from the trigger until the gun is sighted on a target. It's bad when it involves checking to see if a gun is unloaded. In this case I had just installed a grip safety and was checking to see if the safety worked properly. It did. You just can't trust your unconscious mind to do the right thing.

You should NEVER allow safety to become "automatic". If you do it's just a matter of time before your gun goes off when you don't want it to.

I'm writing this the day after the event. The pain is manageable as long as I keep the leg elevated, don't try to bend or straighten my leg and don't try to move my foot around. Doing so causes muscles to "pull" on the wounds. The bottom of my foot is completely numb. I have to get a CT Arteriogram to see if I have damaged any arteries. The doctor is concerned about the possibility of aneurysm in one later. My leg, ankle and foot is still swollen.

I learned two valuable lessons.
"What doesn't kill you makes you smarter"
"Life sucks until you accidentally shoot yourself in the leg. Then you realize life hadn't sucked as much as you thought it had."
Here's a lesson you should all learn from this. Don't be stupid like me. It HURTS!

I went to my doctor today. It was a pretty sobering visit. Among the things that can go wrong:
1. Excessive swelling to the point that the internal stuff starts getting compressed. I'd know because my toes, then feet, then leg would feel cold and turn blue. Extreme emergency. Go to ER where they would slice my leg up the side to relieve pressure. 2. Blood clots in veins, which could travel to my lungs and kill me. He sent me for a Doppler test of my leg. The woman had to remove the bandages and pressed down pretty hard pretty near some of the wounds. It came back negative. (YAY!!) 3. Damage to arteries which could cause one to blow out later. I'm getting a test for that on Wednesday.
4. Infection - I honestly don't remember much what he said here, my daughter probably will. She was there and in nursing school so she understands and remembers this stuff better than I do. More on this in the next scary thing 5. There are two very large chunks still in my lower leg. They seem to be between the two bones in my calf. They'll probably leave them where they are. I asked about infection later. He said they bullet is so hot when in goes in that it probably didn't have many germs on it. Infection could occur later, caused by dead tissue.
6. The entire sole of my foot is completely numb. Some feeling may start coming back in a few months. I actually have some experience with this, I had 2 nerves cut out of the same foot back in '95. Feeling DID return, for the most part, but I think it well over a year in time, probably closer to two years. The toes on that foot never felt cold in cold weather after that, though.
I think if I wrap the bandages a little further from my knee I'll be able to bend it again. I still can't move my ankle much at all.
I need to stay off of it, keep it elevated and take Ibuprofen to help with the swelling.
I don't much like or trust the arterial surgeon I'm seeing on Thursday. I hope all is well with that test, or I'm going to Indy to find another surgeon.
The femoral artery runs down the inner thigh, and curves around to the rear of the leg near the knee. I don't know, but it sounds like it was really close to where the bullet went through. I assume that's the artery that they are worried about.
Oh, the bleeding has slowed down pretty well, but the people at the E.R. didn't use or give me non stick bandages. THAT hurt when the doctor peeled them off.
Oh, I washed the jeans that I was wearing at the time and wore them today. They are the only ones baggy enough to go over the bandages Here's how much swelling I have

The fragments

Update 1-22-08 2 1/2 days after injury

I unwrapped my leg this morning. None of the wounds oozed or bled. I don't know if it is wise infection wise or not, but I'm leaving the wounds uncovered for a while to see if that helps the scabs form. They aren't touching anything, so I don't know why it should hurt anything.

The swelling is still pretty bad. I kept it propped up really high overnight. The swelling isn't as bad as it was last night, but it still looks bad. My knee and the area above is huge. I can actually bend my knee! The ankle is still really stiff.

Of course I took the opportunity to take some pictures. Just overviews of my leg so you can see better where the holes are.

My daughter brought up the idea "what if you were doing one of your videos at the time?"! I've done quite a few on the Load Master reloading press as well as a couple that I've done on the 1911. Now THAT would have been scary, huh?

I'm hoping that when people that have seen these pictures pick up their gun, they think about the possibility of having to hold a towel around their leg, yelling at their spouse to call 911 and hoping that they don't bleed to death before the ambulance gets there.

update 1-22-08 evening.
I checked out the numbness in my foot. Everything below the dots is COMPLETELY numb. The area above that line is really tender. I'm a bit concerned how that will affect standing for 2 hours a day and walking about 8 miles a day, which is what my job consists of.

1-24-08 I went to the surgeon today to get the results of the CT Arteriogram. I wasn't happy with what I heard. There are three main arteries that run down your leg. You need one really good one, two good ones are better, and of course all three being good is best. One didn't show up well on the test yesterday. The bullet managed to join another artery with a vein. This is pumping too much blood into the veins and is responsible for most of the swelling. I'm going to have to go to Indy to get a catheter done to see what's going on and possible fix the problem. If I have two good ones they can block the joined one, if not they'll cut me open and repair the joined artery and vein. Short term there is no immediate danger as long as it doesn't swell up too much. Long term it can affect my heart. I am SOOOO tired of propping my leg up and using crutches. The crutches are starting to rub my sides raw up near my armpits. <

1-25-08 The pain is worst in the morning. I try to keep my foot and leg propped up. Last night I used a hospital bed we have, but had never used before. I got pretty discouraged and depressed for a while this morning, both of which are completely against my nature. I took a couple of pain pills and after my leg quit hurting so badly and after I got busy working on my web page, my spirits picked up. Since the wounds haven't been bleeding or seeping much, I skipped changing my bandages today. The procedure is set for Tuesday afternoon.

1-26-08 The pain was really bad this morning. It took two pain pills to knock it down. Why do the wounds hurt so much? They had been healing pretty well, I thought. I removed the bandages and the two lower ones were pretty sticky and sloppy. It's the top one (first entry) and bottom one (second exit wound) that hurt the most. My leg also aches over a broad area. I wonder if it has something to do with the fragments..... I took close-up photos of the wounds.

This is wound number one, an entry wound

This is the second wound, the first exit wound

This is wound numbertwo, anexit wound

Here is the third one, the second entry wound

The third one, the second entry wound

This is the fourth wound, the second exit wound

The fourth wound, the second exit wound

1-26-08 evening. Wound #3 is worrying me a bit. Our daughter, the nursing student frowned when she saw it. She sent a close-up photo of it to the head nurse at her nursing school, who is also a wound specialist. She suggested silver alginate. She has some in her office that she could give me, but only if a doctor wrote an order for it. I called the doctor on call, but he was unfamiliar with it. He called me back and said he looked it up and it had merit, but I'd need to talk to my doctor or a surgeon, It didn't look like anybody would be able to do anything until Monday any way. The doctor said that the antibiotics combined with keeping the wound clean, dry and covered should be okay. It doesn't look infected, just wet. 

I've gotten the best emails from people that I've never heard of. One guy said to load up on Vitamin B and especially B12 for my nerve damage. Another works in a Cardiac Catherization Lab in Kansas. He explained a lot to me and relieved a lot of concern on my part. All send kind wishes and encouragement. Many send very scary stories of their own experiences. The emails help a lot.

My calf muscle is doing something new, too. It is TIGHT. If I'm standing on my crutches and try to straighten it, it HURTS. It feels swollen and tight. I'll wait until after my procedure Tuesday to see what develops.


1-28-08 I cancelled the arteriogram scheduled for tomorrow. The surgeon told me one artery didn't show up clearly in the CT arteriogram done earlier. He was going to run a catheter down to see if it was in good shape. On the other side of my leg an artery joined with a vein. This is overloading the veins and preventing the swelling from going down. Over time it could affect the right side of my heart. If the first artery was okay, he was going to close this one off using a catheter. If the first artery was bad he was going to do surgery to try to fix this artery. I walk about 8 - 10 miles a day on my job. I need three good arteries if possible.  My new friend from Kansas called me last night and explained a better method for repairing arteries. There are five surgeons in Indianapolis that are trained with this procedure. My family doctor also called me this morning and said he would talk to the surgeon that was supposed to do the arteriogram to  see exactly what was going on. I haven't heard back from my doctor yet, but cancelled the procedure any way. I just can't take that chance.


The reason I'm telling all of this is to drive home a point - a moment of carelessness has consequences you can't even imagine if and when an ND happens


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