Resurrection by Dr. Russell Strong

In 1977, I visited several trauma centres in the USA, with particular reference to management of blunt liver injuries and spent three weeks at the San Francisco General Hospital with Don Trunkey.  It was there that I witnessed a true resurrection. 

On Sunday afternoon 27th November 1977, I was seated in the Emergency Department when a call came through from the Ambulance Service regarding a teenage lad who had received gunshot wounds.  He was walking along a footpath with his girlfriend after attending church, when two young teenagers jumped from behind a bush, grabbed the girl’s handbag and shot her.  He went forward to resist the robbery whereupon he was shot in the lower abdomen and as he fell forward was shot again in the upper abdomen/chest. 

While being transported to the hospital, an intravenous infusion was commenced in his left arm.  An ECG of the patient in the ambulance was shown on a screen in the ED while travelling to the hospital (I had never witnessed this previously) and, as the Ambulance entered the hospital driveway, the ECG went flat, indicating cessation of heart beat. 

He was immediately transferred to an operating table in the ED, while simultaneously being intubated and ventilated and a catheter inserted into his femoral vein and Don opened the chest.  The heart was flaccid and not beating.  He began internal cardiac massage which, together with the rapid intravenous fluid infusion and oxygenation via the endotracheal tube, resulted in filling of the heart and restoration of heart beat and circulation.  There was a through and through bullet wound of the heart which Don repaired, together with splenectomy due to penetration of the spleen by the bullet.  I am a little hazy about the intra-abdominal wound by the first bullet, but believe it was damage to the left iliac vessels which were repaired.

Chatting to the patient and photographing him in bed several days later (photo) made the classification of a “resurrection” to be real.

Don and his wife Jane have been close friends with Judith and myself for over 40 years and we have spent many, many wonderful times together in different parts of the world, which has included our combined love of wines.  After some search, I have found a photograph of us together in formal dress (all the others seemed to have shown us with a wine glass in our hand) and one where Don shows his legs wearing a kilt.

I also enclose a photograph of Don in the Australian outback on one of our trips.  He is throwing a spear with a special device, generally called a spear thrower, which were often used by Aborigines to increase the distance they could be thrown, with an expert thrower (probably not Don) getting two to three times the distance he could throw without using one.  They have a peg at one end where the spear fits in and the thrower holds it by the other end to throw the spear.  The spear thrower instrument is called Woomera.  The town of Woomera in South Australia was the site where Australia was involved with the British in developing rockets and missiles, which seemed to be an appropriate name for the Indigenous weapon.

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