The Gruesome Truth About Getting Shot (a First-Hand Account)
According to Hollywood, the leg is pretty much the best place to get shot. Does the protagonist need to shoot information out of a baddie without killing him? Put a bullet in his thigh! Hero needs to suffer a non-fatal injury? You can bet that unpleasant bit of lead is going straight to the more strutting-centric parts (and real heroes shrug off bullets to the arm so easily that they barely count).
Well, here in real life, a direct blast of firearm-based "NO" to a human calf or shin looks like this:
See the bones, and how they're shattered into a million pieces? Yeah, that's the X-ray of a guy named Ryan Jarcy, who took a blast to the leg with a shotgun and had to have his lower leg fucking amputated as a result. We wanted to know what that sunny afternoon was like, and he was kind enough to tell us the story:
Most People Get Shot for Really Stupid Reasons (and Mine Is Worst of All)
First: there's nothing glorious about any of this. I was sitting in the bathroom, as I like to from time to time, when I heard our dog barking angrily in the yard. I looked out the window of our rural, remote West Texas home and saw a stranger tossing stuff into their truck, presumably thinking no one was home. Theft is common out in the boondocks of the sandy and meth-laden oil fields, and it wasn't uncommon to have at least a couple of tweakers dig for scrap metal in any given week. I grabbed my pump-action shotgun (an older clone of a Mossberg 500) and headed out, creeping to keep hidden until throwing the door open. In my best "angry dad" voice, I yelled at the guy and pointed the barrel at his head while looking like a reject from Duck Dynasty. The thief-turned-target looked up at me, turned white as a sheet, and bolted toward the running pickup truck parked in our lawn, doing his best jazz hands and screaming in Spanish as he moved away.
The actual gun, in its favorite chair. Sadly, the chair never walked again.
Wracked with both anger and a tiny bit of moral scruples, I decided not to shoot: an old battery charger and some plywood isn't worth a human life. We've all done dumb stuff, and that's not a crime typically handled by the death penalty. Now, if you're waiting for the part where the thief's accomplices in the truck leaned out with their own shotguns and took out my leg, well, that's not exactly how it went down. The truth is much, much dumber.
You might get a concussion from how hard you're about to facepalm.
Repeating the license plate number of the truck to myself, I lowered the shotgun so it was aimed at the ground, then pulled out my iPhone to call 911 and let them know I'd been robbed again. I did not set the safety on the shotgun (this will become crucially important in a moment).
My phone and hands were damp and slippery with sweat, and as I dialed the second "1," the phone slipped from my hand. As I fumbled for it, I started to drop the shotgun, too. Now, Cracked has mentioned before that if you ever drop a loaded gun, let it drop. As in don't try to reach down and catch it, much less juggle it. Keep that little rule in mind, all you bipeds and rational types, because otherwise you will do what I did: clench your hand around whatever you can grab, which could very well be the trigger.
You may be getting a better picture of how this ends than I did at the time.
The gun went off. In an instant, an entire section of my leg above the ankle had been turned into (poorly) ground hamburger.
I was alone, in the country, with no family or neighbors on hand to help.
You Don't Feel It ... at First
My brain didn't actually register what had happened until a few seconds later. My shin bone was sticking out about 2 to 3 inches from the ragged end of my stump, but I felt nothing, nor did I notice it. Not at first, anyway.
I attempted to stand, and then felt it. I yelped in pain, fell flat on my face, and made the foolish decision to try standing up once more. The entire weight of my body was now on that bone. And that bone, weakened by 96 tiny lead pellets traveling at twice the speed of sound, didn't hold up very long. It snapped like a piece of blood-soaked chalk, jamming the shards into my newly opened calf muscle and feeling, oh, let's go with "uncomfortable".
It was basically the most horrific Gallagher show you can imagine.
I cannot adequately verbalize the pain I felt as I looked down and saw what had happened: My left foot was twitching rapidly (and in the wrong direction) like a seizure victim, and my leg resembled a pile of Alpo dog food smushed up against what used to be just below my knee. Blood was steadily burping onto the floor, I was screaming bloody murder, and the day had gone from merely tense to decidedly bad.
My first thought was that there was no way this could be real. No way had my life gone to shit this quickly. I must have taken the brown acid, or entered a vivid nightmare, or watched too many episodes of The Walking Dead. Yet, no matter how tightly I closed my eyes and begged myself to wake up, none of the pain went away. Then, it really began to hurt. A lot. Things suddenly got real, really fast.
Yes, You Can Die From a Leg Wound
Note: your leg is home to the femoral artery and severing it can cause you to bleed out within minutes (at best). There are actually videos of this sort of accident happening on YouTube. Feel free to search for them if you want to ruin your appetite.
It's kinda like this but with nightmares instead of water.
I thought, "OK, idiot, do some quick math. You have 5, maybe 5.5 liters of blood in your body. You're looking at 2 to 2.5 liters of it pooling on the ground back there, easily. You just blew off your leg and likely severed your femoral artery. And you're in the middle of nowhere." I considered just finishing it then and there -- none of my options had much appeal at that moment. The question was this: do I spend my last moments angrily cursing at God while in absolute agony as I die on the porch, or do I opt out painlessly? Could anyone really blame me for taking the easy way out?
All those thoughts went through my head in a matter of seconds. Then I thought about my family, how they'd find me, and what that would do to them. I'll spare you the emotionally charged personal details, but thankfully, I chose to at least try and make it as far as I could.
It turns out those CPR dummies don't really brace you for a situation in which you're quickly deflating.
First step (har har): find my phone and hope it hadn't shattered when I dropped it. It hadn't -- the OtterBox iPhone cover saved it and probably my life (I'm available for endorsements, guys!). The phone had landed face up only 2 feet away (HAR HAR), with 911 already dialed, and the big green "Call" button waiting to be pushed. An opportunity! I phoned the ambulance and started dragging myself towards the bathroom, fervently yelling my address into the phone.
Once inside, I threw a bath towel over the wound to try to stem the bleeding, then ripped down the shower curtain, and tied it into a makeshift tourniquet around my thigh. About 10 to 15 minutes later, the ambulance showed up, and a team of (appropriately horrified) EMS technicians ran to my aid. "You saved your own life; just stay with us," the lead EMT said.
Note: This carnage was caused by birdshot, aka about the least lethal shotgun round you
can buy. I'm pretty sure it's the only reason I survived.
... And If You Survive, You Can Definitely Lose a Limb
In a movie, a hero's leg wound is forgotten as soon as they notice it -- Samuel L. Jackson gets shot in the knee in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, and he's running around on it minutes later, barely remembering to keep his pimp limp. In real life, you can wind up with this:
They wound up amputating my leg 2 to 3 inches below the knee because, you know, 12-gauge shotgun and all. "Lop it off, and stick a plunger on the end. I'll be a pirate for Halloween," I said, before being put under anesthesia again. Humor under stress is how I get by, I've since learned. That tendency led to me being put on suicide watch, by the way. The first doctor I met after coming out of surgery told me that, lucky for me, it could have been worse: I could have blown my penis off. "Hmm, valid point, doc," I said, adding, "Heh, I would have ended it myself had that been the case!" "Yes, it's fortunate that -- wait, are you serious?" he asked, brow furrowed in concern. "Yeah, kinda, since a molded plastic replacement just wouldn't be the same."
It was only a poorly timed joke, but because I had brought up the idea of suicide at all, I was sent off to spend a day and a night in an observational ward. The lesson: suicide is never funny. Shotgun amputations, on the other hand, make for wonderful bar stories.
Plus all that lost blood really cuts down on the tab.
Getting Shot Changes Your Life Forever. Duh.
If you're going to live as a non-biped, you're going to have to get used to it. For one thing, you need to learn how to fall. Not just in terms of coping mentally and psychologically, but how to tuck and roll for the least painful impact possible when you inevitably eat it on a wet, tiled floor when using crutches. Let's say you lose your balance and go down at Walmart: if you've got a choice between falling into the $4 Soccer Mom Special wine rack or the pile of memory foam pillows, go for the softer and less glass-heavy option. Don't worry -- you get plenty of fucking practice.
Although screaming "WOO!" as you nosedive into Cleveland's finest merlot also makes for a pretty good bar story.
Oh whoops, did I mention that all of this happened the day after my 26th birthday? As in, "the day you lose health coverage under your parents by federal law"? Yep, I managed to miss that window by less than 12 hours. So, on top of the whole "losing 50 percent of my feet and 100 percent of limited dancing skills" mess, I'm saddled with well over $60,000 in medical bills. There are disability benefits, food stamps and Medicaid to help -- none of which I qualified for! Since all of these agencies preferred not to play a game of hot potato with that ever-growing pile of debt, it took over a year to even begin physical therapy and to get the aforementioned pirate peg leg (the incident happened in early March 2013, and I was finally fitted for a prosthesis in August 2014). As of writing this, it hasn't been that long since they bolted on a glorified plunder, and already, I'm up strutting around as a cyborg. It's such a great feeling to be able to truly look down on people again!
It's not really enough prosthetics to justify doing a RoboCop voice, but damned if I don't anyway.
Yet here I am, standing on my own, with a grin from ear to ear and a nauseating memory of how poor weapon-handling can ruin a birthday. Big, big thanks to OtterBox, the timely EMS services of West Texas, and Obamacare (plus all my loved ones and their unconditional support, I guess) for assisting the Dumbest Gun Owner Alive in his recovery. Kids, always treat weapons with the utmost respect and/or don't fucking play with guns while dialing a phone. They don't take well to on-the-spot, unplanned amateur surgery hobbyists, trust me on that.
Ryan Jarcy still owns several guns and is an immediate danger to himself and those around him. Check out the full story and some disgusting pictures at RyanJarcy.com. The full and illustrated version is even more hilarious! Consider donating to the charities listed on his site if this made you laugh, cringe, or just throw up a little.
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For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Ways Movies Get Gunfights Wrong (Based on Experience) and 5 Terrible Things I Learned Working as a 911 Dispatcher.
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