What It’s Like to
Be Shot in the Head

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in ,

In Short: Lucky Shot.

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While working at a retail store the last thing one might expect is to be rushed to a hospital with life-threatening injuries before the end of the day. I was not even supposed to work that evening, but my assistant needed the evening off, and I stayed. It was the 1976 Christmas season, and customers were arriving steadily.

Around dinnertime it had slowed down and I heard an employee scream.

When I rushed back to see what the issue was, I almost ran into an individual holding a gun. I was thrown to the floor, and hit in the head with the gun so hard he broke the trigger guard. I literally saw stars, and felt blood running down my face. I was later told that after being pistol-whipped I was then shot, point-blank in the temple, but I had no idea. I felt nothing, probably due to shock (thank goodness for shock).

RC: When you first saw photo did you notice the man? I didn’t because I was so focused on the gun pointed at “me”! The photo was chosen by the author. (Photo: Marcus Trapp via Pixabay.)

Hearing the EMTs say “Point of entry, right temple. No point of exit,” gave me the first clue, and I asked what they meant. That is when I learned I had been shot. I never lost consciousness. However, I was unable to see, but I thought it was blood in my eyes. EMTs wheeled me out and preemptively said, “Don’t worry. We are putting a blanket over your head, but it is because it is snowing, not for any other reason”!

The bullet hit the back of my right eye and came to rest behind my left eye — and is still there 45 years later. I am essentially blind in the right eye but did not lose it. Vision in the “good” eye began to return the next day, and since has returned fully. My Ophthalmologist at the time advised that due to the unusual hemorrhaging and circumstances that occurred, pictures of my eyes were submitted to an industry reference journal and were accepted.

I was a bit of a novelty at the hospital as it is not often an individual shot in the head can speak with worried relatives, doctors, and police. I spent seven days including Christmas in the hospital, but was home for New Year’s.

Interestingly, the actual shooting was almost painless. The treatments for months after were a kind of torture, but thanks to the medical professionals and a whole bunch of luck I can talk about it. I was told that if the bullet was a millimeter either way I would have been dead, or a vegetable.

The shooter and cohort were caught that night and I was able to testify at their trial, sending them both away for lengthy sentences. I have adjusted to having no depth perception, and really give no thought to what could have been. The bullet fragmented as it entered me, and occasionally a small fragment works its way to the surface and can be painful, but that happens very infrequently.

Amazingly there have been very few after-effects and for that I am thankful. Along with surviving, of course.

Steve spent 40+ years in retail senior management, and has recently retired.

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10 thoughts on “Be Shot in the Head”

  1. Steve,

    I’m astounded that the sight in the one eye returned. I have met six or seven people who’ve totally lost their vision due to gunshots (most were victims of crime, and two were due to self-inflicted gunshots). I’m also amazed you’ve had few side effects! When you said “Lucky shot”, it was indeed lucky. Still, I cannot even imagine the psychological trauma of dealing with such a thing.

    Reply
    • I never really gave it much thought. Certainly it was a traumatic event and physical recovery took the better part of 8-10 months. I saw no benefit to allowing myself to fall into a “Why me?” or “Poor me” state of mind so moving on was the focus.

      Sure, I was angry at times, but because the loss of vision in one eye meant I still had vision in the other I made the best of it.

      I too am still astounded I regained vision as well as the ability to conduct life that rapidly, but clearly that fateful moment just wasn’t “my time” (or maybe it actually was) and for that I remain grateful to this day.

      The one major annoyance is that I cannot enjoy 3D movies/effects with vision in only one eye. Me thinks it is a pretty small price to pay though.

      Reply
  2. That’s wild! My dad, who was in the US Navy, tried to explain it to me, but that GIF does a MUCH better job. Thanks for the info.

    Reply
  3. Steve, that has got to be one of the scariest headlines I can imagine for a “what’s it like”. It’s great to see that a positive attitude can overcome something that might defeat others — a credit to you.

    Thanks for the story.

    Reply
  4. Thanks, Randy, that we’re hearing from the quiet heroes, the grateful survivors, and the ones who continue to care.

    Reply
  5. I was an orderly at a psychiatric hospital in the 70’s. A man had tried to commit suicide with a .22 pistol. He put it to his forehead, and when he pulled the trigger, it caused the gun to rise up. The bullet hit his skull, and knocked him out. He woke up to find he had a hole in the front of his head, and one in the back of his head. He thought the bullet went clean through, so he called for an ambulance. The reason for the exit hole was that the bullet travelled between the skull and skin, and finally came out. He was glad to get a second chance at life.

    Reply
  6. I was shot in the abdomen. Silver dollar size hole in liver, diaphragm, lung. Still have the slug to prove it. She was right, didn’t feel it at the time. Worst pain ever when they set me up for X-rays about an hour later.

    Reply
  7. I used to drink with a guy who would let just about anyone crash at his place. One gal got into an argument, he tried to stop it, got shot right between the eyes with a .22. It followed the skull and came out the top of his head.

    It was a derringer. Not enough barrel to get much speed. Same bullet, out of a rifle, you wouldn’t be so lucky.

    Reply

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