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Hospital Press Conference on Sniper Victim

Aired October 21, 2002 - 14:32   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The latest now on the search for a killer, "Sniper on the Loose." We now know definitively that the shooting in Ashland, Virginia, Saturday is linked to the sniper. This could change the course of the investigation. Let's go live Now to a news conference from Richmond, Virginia. This is the medical center where the 12th victim is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I, V as in Victor, A-T-U-R-Y. He is the director of trauma and critical care surgery here at the VCU health system. He has also Been the surgeon on the patient. And we have Nancy Martin, who is trauma program director. She has had the closest contact with the patient's wife. We're going to let Dr. Ivatury come up now and give you status on the patient.

DR. RAO IVATURY, DIRECTOR OF TRAUMA AND CRITICAL CARE SURGERY, VCU HEALTH SYSTEM: Good afternoon. Just to give you a recap, as you know, this gentleman came on Saturday night with a gun shot wound to the upper abdomen. And the bullet went through the stomach, the pancreas, spleen. Most of those organs, we had to remove. And it also went into the chest after injuring the kidney. We had to take out his organs in the first operation, but because he was unstable, we could not finish this operation. We had to come back yesterday, which we did. We washed the belly and we sewed up the stomach and the intestines together. We also had the opportunity to remove the bullet and handed that over to the authorities.

Since last night, he has stabilized. He remains stable. He's conscious. He's responding to his wife's voice. He's moving all the extremities. His vital signs have remained very stable and all of his numbers are coming back to normal. So he's in a relatively stable, but critical, condition. He has still a long way to go. We expect a lot of complications because of all the injuries he has received, all the amount of blood that he has received. It's going to be a stormy course.

And I stop there and take any questions from you.

QUESTION: What's the long-term prognosis?

IVATURY: If he makes it through this immediate postoperative period, the long-term prognosis should not be any different than any other individual after he leaves the hospital.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) IVATURY: Yes, he does need additional surgeries, not only to close the abdomen, which we could not because there was so much swelling yesterday. And this, I think, we'll take in a couple of stages, so he'll at least need two to three operations. We also expect some infectious complications. In other words, he's going to develop some intra-abdominal pus formation because of all the contamination he had in the first operation from the stomach. And for that, he may also need some more operations. So we anticipate at least about three to four more operations in the next couple of weeks.

QUESTION: ... fragment and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Could you explain the tumble?

IVATURY: There is one bullet which was quite deformed and the process also had some fragmentation. Most of the damage seems to have been caused by the major fragment of the bullets.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) awake and responding (OFF-MIKE)

IVATURY: He cannot talk because of a breathing tube in his throat. But he is appropriately opening the eyes, which is always a good sign, which is always a very unpleasant sign to have?

QUESTION: The reason that he can't talk, is he able to give any information to authorities in regards to the shooting?

IVATURY: No. He could not talk to authorities. He could not talk to us when he first came in.

QUESTION: If we were looking inside of his room right now, what would we see? What is he hooked up to, etcetera?

IVATURY: He has a lot of intravenous lines going into his body, a lot of catheters coming out of his nose and his urinary bladder. He has a lot of dressings on his chest and abdomen. He also is hooked up to the respiratory machine and a lot of bedside monitors. So all you will see is a little bit of the face, which is not covered completely.

QUESTION: What do you do to avoid the infection?

IVATURY: He is getting appropriate antibiotics and the infection we expect in a few days, so we will constantly be on the watch out for it and try to diagnose it early and intervene early.

QUESTION: How lucky is he to be alive?

IVATURY: He's lucky to be a live, but this is what trauma centers always do, and we are used to these kind of patients. And I just have to ask you even though I'm here talking to you, it's not just me, it is a whole bunch of professionals. And that all the way it takes from the emergency department, operating room, anesthesia, critical care nurses and so on, there is a whole bunch of thieves that you will not get at a moment's notice in other centers, except if it is a level one trauma center, which is -- Medical College of Virginia is a level one trauma center.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) The most difficult part about this operation, the most difficult (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

IVATURY: The most difficult part was the taking out part of the stomach because that was really ripped apart and there was a lot of contamination from the food that he just ate. So that was the most difficult part.

QUESTION: What other organs did you have to remove?

IVATURY: We removed half of the pancreas, we removed the spleen, we removed about two-thirds of the stomach.

QUESTION: Can you talk about how much blood he lost and how much you had to transfuse?

IVATURY: He lost quite a bit of blood, at least, I would say, about four to five liters of blood. And he received at the first operation, about ten units of blood, which is approximately three liters of fluid, three liters of blood.

QUESTION: Doctor, could you explain the route of the bullet, where it entered and where it (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

IVATURY: The bullet entered through the left of the upper abdomen, just to the left of the midline, went immediately through the stomach. And I think at that point it exploded, because the stomach was just torn apart. After that, it went through the pancreas, went through the kidney and then it shattered the spleen. And after that, it went through the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the chest and the abdomen, and went through the rib on the left side and then lodged in the wall of the chest on the left side.

QUESTION: Did you say that it exploded?

IVATURY: It seemed to have exploded inside.

QUESTION: How many bullet fragments? Exploded in what way? (OFF-MIKE)

IVATURY: The way the stomach was torn apart suggested to me that it might have had some explosive effect on the stomach.

QUESTION: How many bullet fragments?

IVATURY: There was only one major bullet piece that we removed and handed over to the police. There were some minor fragments which we did not see where they are. We could not take them out.

QUESTION: They are still in the body?

IVATURY: Yes, they're in the body.


IVATURY: We took the bullet out and immediately secured it in a specimen bottle and immediately informed the authorities. They were immediately available -- they came immediately and took charge of the bullet.

QUESTION: Is there a predictable time frame now for his recovery if you're watching closely over him in the next few days, 24 hours?

IVATURY: Well, the critical time period will be the next two to three weeks. And we anticipate lots of complications, lung complications, abdominal complications, and these will all start maybe in the next week or so. So the next two weeks will be crucial.

QUESTION: What will be the next surgery?

IVATURY: The next surgery will be to take him back, maybe in a couple of days, and see how much of the swelling has gone down and see if we can close the belly completely. I anticipate we will not be able to do that. I anticipate that we may have to do that in a couple of stages.

QUESTION: Close the stomach?

IVATURY: It's not The stomach -- it's just the abdominal wall.

QUESTION: How much longer do you expect him to be here?

IVATURY: In the best case scenario, he will be here for at least two or three weeks, and in the worst case scenario, we've had patients like this for about a few months.

QUESTION: When do you expect him to be able to talk again?

IVATURY: He will be able to talk when we take the breathing tube out of his throat, which will hopefully happen in a week or two.


IVATURY: He's a very, very strong man, and once he comes out of this, I think he will have a normal life.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Can you give us any idea he weighs (OFF- MIKE).

IVATURY: I think he approximately weighs about 200 pounds, and he's about 6 feet tall.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) does that have a lot to do with his success right now (OFF-MIKE).

IVATURY: That always helps.


IVATURY: Yes. He is getting, besides the antibiotics, some medications to keep him sedated, keep him free from pain. And other things like we use to prevent them from having some bleeding from the stomach and so on.

QUESTION: You mentioned some other surgeries. After you close the abdomen, what other surgeries will be necessary? What will you have to do?

IVATURY: After we close the abdomen, he may have to have, as I said, some other surgeries for controlling infection of his abdomen. If that happens.

QUESTION: In which area (OFF-MIKE)?

IVATURY: It's in the upper abdomen. Upper abdomen.


IVATURY: His wife has been there all of the time, she's been talking to him all of the time, and he seems to understand and respond to her sometimes with opening the eyes. But she has been there by his bedside since he come in.

QUESTION: Have you been with her?


QUESTION: Could you tell us a little bit about her and how she's dealing with this?

NANCY MARTIN, MEDICAL COLLEGE OF VIRGINIA: She's been holding up very well. You know, I get strength from her. She is doing very well. She does have some extra support with her now from home. And she does want to remain -- not give out her name or give out the family name. I think what she really wants is to get in touch with everyone before she lets us know.


MARTIN: She does have some extra support with her now that are family.


MARTIN: She just wanted me to say they were from out of state.


MARTIN: She just wanted me to say she was from out of state.

QUESTION: Out of state?


QUESTION: So it's her wish for her not to be identified?


Pardon me?



MARTIN: Did you want me to read it again?



QUESTION: Can you get closer to the mic.

MARTIN: "I would like to thank the people of Richmond and Ashland for their caring and prayers. They have been a bright ray of hope and comfort. Also, thank you to the staff at the hospital for their excellent dedication and skill. This has been a frightening and difficult time where I have feared for the loss of my husband, friend and soulmate. The support I have gotten from this community, my home community and my family has seen me through this difficult time. The hospital has taken care of all of our needs, so there is no need to send anything other than continued prayer. Please pray also for the attacker and that no one else is hurt.

QUESTION: When did she give you that statement?

MARTIN: Last night.


MARTIN: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Did you read that last night (OFF-MIKE)?

MARTIN: No. She gave it to me late last night to read this morning.


MARTIN: Pardon me?


MARTIN: Honestly, I don't. I don't know how old she is.


MARTIN: No, she just said just say from out of state.



QUESTION: Did they say what they were doing (OFF-MIKE)?

MARTIN: Just traveling through.


MARTIN: Sorry.


MARTIN: They are with the patient. She has been staying with the patient almost 24 hours. She rarely leaves his bedside.


MARTIN: That I do not know.


MARTIN: I know that she has one child, but I don't think they have any children together.

QUESTION: She has one child?


QUESTION: Is that child in the hospital?


Any other?




Thank you very much.

We don't plan any more formal news conferences...


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