by Dr. David Sanders
All the world’s a stage,
All insults and injuries perpetrated,
Have their entrances and exit wounds,
And children have endured them all.
I wrote these words last Yom Kippur to inspire those attending services to retract the “parts” they played falsely. The phrase “exit wounds” was a word change from prior year services as the rest of the prayer speaks of exits and entrances. I did not know that I would hear about the exit wounds that the children in Uvalde, Texas would die from or be maimed by. Perhaps the phrase was in my subconscious. Now it will never exit my waking life.
Back in 2018, Dr. Heather Sher, a radiologist at Broward Medical Center, who saw first-hand the wounds inflicted on students from the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida wrote this opinion piece in The Atlantic:
Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.
Back in 2013, Dr. William Begg, an E.R. doctor in Danbury Connecticut, was on shift at Danbury Hospital on December 14th, the day of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on gun violence a year after the shooting he did not describe the differences between wounds from handguns and assault weapons. Instead, he brought photos, illustrating the difference in damage to the body that he warned would not be easy to look at.
One of the victims from Robb Elementary in Uvalde was 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez. She dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. She often wore a pair of green high-top Converse shoes with a heart drawn in marker over her right toes. The exit wounds to Maite’s body were so extensive that the only clear evidence that could identify her were the sneakers on her feet.
The exit wounds from any shooting, let alone a mass shooting, let alone a mass shooting of children shatter not only the body. They leave gaping holes in the psyche and soul of those who were there and survived, who were there but not shot at, who were there and wanted to enter the building, who were not there and have lost their loved ones, and for all the rest of us, children and adults who feel the devastation of senseless, painful death and dismemberment.
People. Parents. Educators. Mental health workers. Gun owners. Elected officials and representatives. Need to know.
Assault weapon exit wounds. Never heal.
P.S. If you can handle the heart break, read John Cox’s article in the Washington Post, “What School Shootings do to the kids who survive them, from Sandy Hook to Uvalde.”