ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CBSNewYork) — Congressman Steve Scalise’s condition is showing signs of improvement after he was shot when a gunman opened fire on the Republican Congress as they practiced for a charity softball game Wednesday morning, doctors say.
Doctors said it was bad at first, an “imminent risk of death,” but the news was better Friday night.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, we often think if a person survives right after suffering a gunshot wound, the rest is simply healing the damage. But injuries like Scalise’s are more complicated, with multiple organ systems involved, any of which could still lead to serious disability or death.
“The congressman’s status remains critical. We are encouraged by improvement in his condition over the last 36 hours,” Dr. Jack Sava, trauma director at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said. “We have controlled the internal bleeding, and his vital signs have stabilized.”
Those are the most important factors in the immediate aftermath of a major gunshot wound like the one suffered by Scalise. Doctors say massive bleeding in his pelvis and shock had put the House Majority Whip at imminent risk of death when he was admitted to the trauma center.
“A single rifle wound, that entered in the area of left hip, it traveled directly across toward the other hip in what we call a trans-pelvic gunshot wound,” Sava said. “The round fragmented and gave substantial damage to bones, internal organs, and blood vessels.”
The lead trauma surgeon did not specify which organs were damaged, but the pelvis contains the bladder, colon, ureters from the kidneys, as well as major blood vessels and nerves.
Depending on how long organs are without blood supply can also determine any permanent damage. Damaged nerves can also lead to disability.
Then, there are the many fragments left behind.
“It’s quite common that we don’t remove bullets and fragments, and that’s the case here, as well. I have not counted, but I would guess that there are hundreds of fragments,” Sava said. “And usually, there’s more risk involved in trying to find and remove those fragments than benefit. So we have no intention to try to remove all the bullet fragments at this point.”
There is still significant risk of infection, especially if the colon was pierced, so the congressman is not out of the woods yet, Gomez reported.
CBS News learned Friday the alleged gunman, James Hodgkinson, was carrying a list of names in his pocket, which included other congressmen. A source said the writing is not being considered a “hit list.”