How I Blew Off a Leg With a 12 Gauge Shotgun, Part One
There was a man outside throwing stuff into the back of his truck. Wrench sets, tools, wood, just random things- and this wasn’t the first time. Tweakers often try to rummage through the large collection of years of auction-hunting for copper and anything else of value, so when I saw him I immediately grabbed my shotgun from my room, loaded it up (three magnum buckshot and two AA birdshot loads) and ran to the foyer. I opened the door slightly to see if he would notice, and sure enough he pulled his truck around and came back to the pile to thieve.
Jumping out the door, wielding my gun and screaming “GETONTHEGODDAMNGROUND MOTHERFUCKER! DOITNOW GODDAMMIT!” like a wild man, I put the side of his head in my sights and racked in a round just before he took off running to his truck yelling Spanish. He might have a gun, I thought, or maybe just yelling “don’t shoot!” Legally, I had the right to take the shot, but I didn’t want to kill someone over stolen tools. Yelling back all manner of curse words and reaching for my phone, I dove back into the small, enclosed foyer and went to call the police.
Holding my pistol-gripped WesternField 550ABD (Mossberg 500 clone) by my side, shaking from the adrenaline while still observing proper weapons safety (finger off the trigger, pointed downward, the usual lot). I held up my iPhone 4 and dialed nine, one, one and BOOM! A thunderous blast concussed my body as I dropped to the ground and ate shit on the pavement floor of the front entrance with my face, thinking and yelling “AD! AD!” (gun nerd for accidental discharge) as I went to stand back up and move to the house. I made it about six to ten inches off the floor before a sickening snap-crackle-pop-grind-scratch sound met my brain with a searing jet of absolutely brilliant, nerve-pulling, all-consuming pain- and when I looked, my leg was mostly gone, and the grinding pain was my bone currently jutting out and snapping under my weight against the concrete as the flesh and lead mired in spongy fat hung precariously off and set an overwhelming fiery burn to my senses. Not physically dust or completely absent, but definitely mangled and just gushing blood with each fevered pump of my quickly-rising heartbeat.
The muzzle had been against or within a few inches of my lower left leg, as the Winchester AA wad and shot cup had stayed together and thus let it punch a smooth hole for an entry channel and then expand like a .72 caliber hollowpoint slug extremely rapidly as it burrowed into my body fat and tissues, sending well over a full ounce of #7 1/2 lead shot barreling (bad analogies and puns only get worse from here, folks!) into and then out of me, causing the leg itself to be fitted into one of three major categories: the upper and sides of my foot sported a relatively clean, round cavity neat the back leftmost area; my shin was attached from my ankle to the stump that was formerly my shin by a strip of calloused, burnt skin no larger than the size of two postage stamps; my calf and all tissue six inches below the kneecap were absolutely shredded like shitty fast-food hamburger. The red West Texas dust and colichi powder that covered the floor soaked the blood and bits of me into round little balls, seeming to hold shape by surface tension. Being that my face was smashed fairly well against the ground, I noticed these stupid little things.
It was a sight to behold that would (and does) cast shock on even the most Rotten.com-loving sadist, as the idea of a living, breathing and all-too-aware person having that kind of traumatic injury is almost inconceivable. Indeed many who have seen it reflexively dismiss it as a hoax or some visual media their minds simply refuse to comprehend, but it’s the truth. And it’s the best damn story to tell at a bar, hands down.
An illustration of what a man-killing weapon can do if handled incorrectly in the slightest manner. Thanks and gratitude are due to what (or whoever) circumstances led to the firing of a AA birdshot shell instead of the military-grade 00 buckshot I normally carry as at least 3/5 of my HD ammunition supply- had it been anything different the outcome could be changed immeasurably, though I do tend to believe that the sheer muzzle velocity and violent matter displacement of a 00 buck shell at such a short range might have killed me outright from trauma and blood loss. Thank Christ for small miracles, right?
I didn’t believe what I was seeing at first, so I screamed “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! OH FUCK OH FUCK WAAAAAAKE UUUUUUP!” because things like this just don’t happen. Losing a leg so quickly and senselessly like that is something that happens on The Walking Dead! Guns are serious business and demand all due attention (duh), but shooting yourself point-blank with your own 12 gauge shotgun during a robbery sits far into “Nightmare Scenario” with tremendous losses, inconceivable pain and more sober reality than any drugs I’ve heard of.
I didn’t wake up. My first thought: grab the gun, rack it twice to chamber some magnum 00-buck shot and place a shell under my chin. “There’s no shame or cowardice here,” I recall thinking distinctly, “because you can die screaming, or you can save yourself the agony. Just own up, dude. Grandpa Jarcy did it. It’s the best choice. No shame, no shame.” My grandfather, father of my father, had killed himself in the same way while drunk and heartbroken one night. Rationally, I figured, it’s kind of like fate that way.
I then remembered how my grandma tripped over an acorn several months back, shattering something like 46 bones and almost dying yet still crawled up an incline for over 100 feet and had my grandpa drive her to the ER. She’s tough as hell: cancer, trauma, strokes, illness and sheer acts of wanton, godlike brain-bashing experiences and more have yet to slow her down or keep her from doing as she pleases. “Grambo” is a fitting nom de plume for her old-leatherneck level of grace under fire and unstoppably positive attitude. In the mere moments that my brain made and analyzed these memories, I found myself beginning to instinctively crawl towards the bathroom.
The next second I told myself that Uncle John, my mom, my little brother and especially little sister and friends and family and classmates would all understand me electing to “opt out” after such a disastrous event in such hopeless circumstances- but why not try to live? A least drag my carcass to the bathroom or call for an ambulance before the relentless brutality my body overtook my will to keep breathing. “Grandma did this, you’re a man in the same bloodline, so fucking GO!” was my panicked inner monologue as I clawed my way across the dirty wooden floor to the back restroom. To be honest, I’m not sure what drove me to call 911 and hang on for as long as I could. Panic and human desperation, I suppose.
I screamed. I asked God for help countless times. I begged for a quick ending or a warm embrace of magically-appearing dopamine to ease the living hell at hand. I was convinced momentarily that it must be a nightmare, or a really awful dream that just doesn’t happen to real people in real life. I mean, fuck- this pain and this grievous wound and this situation? Really? I am alone and dying from an accidental shotgun blast to the foot, seriously? Why is everything still bad? The more I tried to deny my reality, the more I had to face facts. Shit had gotten very real, very quickly.
When I reached the dirty old bathroom, I immediately ripped off the shower curtain and reached for a towel (belonging to my roommate, heh heh) with which to build a simple yet gently efficient tourniquet to slow the outward flow of arterial and venous blood that could take my consciousness at a moment’s notice. I applied the town to the large patch of missing skin very, very gingerly tied it off while the EMT burst in through the door. On a side note: according to the 911 dispatcher, EMT crew and hospital doctors, doing this likely saved my life. I’m sort of proud of that- seems I do have the balls to fight for my own life under fairly nasty circumstances.
A towering, clearly former military man carrying a large duffel bag bellowed “MISTER JARCY? SIR? MR. JARCY? DID YOU CALL 9-1-1? WHERE ARE YOU AND WHERE IS THE GUN?” I replied weakly with “in here, gun’s by the door I thin– AHHHHH FUUUUUUUUUCK” and continued yelling from the lowest depths known to be existing in my balls as another surge of screeching pain ran through my body and mind. As long as I yelled, I was alive, and that simple equation meant I gave myself tinnitus in short order.
What the first responder said will stick with me as both the least professional yet most understandable remark said at a horrifically bloody gun accident: “Oh shit, son.” He stood wide-eyed in the doorway for what seemed like eternity (yet lasted probably one third of a second) as I lie there screaming bloody murder and carrying on. He quick said “Blemish, stop yelling and breathe. Just hold my hand and squeeze it ’til it breaks, brother, and concentrate on your breaths. I’ve been in [unintelligible military branch/deployment] and I’ve seen much worse pull through. Just breathe.”
If those two words weren’t so cliché (being the lyric for some popular band) I’d have them tattooed on me. Focusing on inhaling through my nose and out of my mouth made me a tiny fraction of a degree calmer and let my frenzied psyche reassure itself that I may not die here, today, alone and maimed. I thought of my little sister, then my uncle with who I lived- and before I knew it we were en route (on some of the shittiest roads in all of Texas) to the emergency room, every bump a fresh new hell to endure. Just breathe, old friends and family told my loose-screw mind, dancing about my head in vivid flashes of lifetimes compressed into single-shot panoramas of memories. Just breathe. They will see you and you will see them again, so long as you just breathe… In this manner and time, I knew deep inside that everything was being taken care of. I might not die like they do on The Walking Dead, I remember telling myself at the sight of the gore and ogrish ugliness. My speech was dismal.
The nurse closest to me, holding my hand and giving me instructions, told me to breathe, and asked if I felt better. I didn’t, and I conveyed that via a flurry of curse words. She looked puzzled, and asked if I had taken any recreational drugs- so I gripped her hand tightly and squeezed it again, weakly crying out in pain as my body began to shut down. She flipped. “FENTANYL! FENTANYL! HE’S GOING DOWN! FILL HIS IV!” The crowd of angels complied, and my brain slipped into la-la land in a minute or two as she smiled at me, telling me what a strong man and brave boy I was. I didn’t understand any of it- the pain just stopped, and so did I.
The IV administration of the opioid painkiller Fentanyl is what saved my life at that moment in time. With eighty times the potency of pure morphine, mega-high receptor binding affinity and an ultra-short onset and duration, this heavy-hitting drug is one of only a handful of opiate-derived chemicals that can help someone in need of immediate pain cessation more quickly than morphine. Nevertheless, that shit was straight painful. Fuck. I qualified.
I awoke groggily to see my foot on one small cookie sheet, what was left and looked like a bloody sponge that was my lower leg, and then my thigh replete with naked, unsightly balls hanging out of my white and green gown. The doctor- a man I respect and like SO much more than Dr. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the biggest asshole I have ever met- said I had to choose between two options.
“We can reattach your foot, but it’ll take two years at minimum to get you standing and it will be hell on earth, honestly. It’s amazing and quite possible, but it’s going to involve teaching your brain 26 years worth of muscle memory and nociception while walking on hot coals. It will be the toughest thing you will ever do, if you choose to.” He was calm, but cold and appropriately matter-of-fact about it. I asked what my other choice was. He looked at my mom, who started crying, and lowered his head. I knew it was amputation, and he told me that keeping my knee and ability to live a full life would be a “good” outcome.
I didn’t need to think. “Lop it off,” I said flatly, “it’s easier than learning a lifetime of lesson, and there’s just no sense in prolonging anything,” I said just as matter-of-factly as he did, fully aware of my predicament and the grasping at straws the full foot-back-together surgical procedure, decades of physical therapy and pain beyond belief would have resulted in- for a “pretty decent” final result at best. Not worth it to anyone, I thought to myself, not even to those wounded Marines and military hard-ass types. He nodded solemnly and told me they’d be giving me something to sleep on, and I speculated that it was that infamous pink Propofol to which he affirmed, impressed by my knowledge of anesthetic drugs and trivia.
I woke up in awful pain and missing my leg six inches under the knee. I cried. I sobbed. I cursed God, whom the presence or grace of I had not felt at any time during this shitty-ass day. I wanted to believe that finally the big man and I were to meet, but I did not feel him in the awful heat of the moment- I only felt me and everyone else. To me, that was God incarnate: humans saving humans- made in his image and given free choice by Him- they don’t even know by doing some of the hardest jobs on Earth simply because they can. Priceless. I’ll have to ruminate on the particulars at another time, as this is and was a giant wall of text since two or three pages ago.
Oh, and did I mention that this all happened the day after my 26th birthday? The day when I lost my health insurance under my parents? Well, it did. So in my first morning of having no insurance I couldn’t make it a damned half-day before Misfire McCoy here made a $45,000+ error in judgement. I shot myself, simple as that, and it’s all up to me to stand on my own two feet (heh) and walk it off (heh heh) since it’s my own doing. Just my kind of luck and habitual carelessness!
And to clarify: the gun slipped from my hand as I dialed 911 (or I knocked the muzzle against the ground and dropped it, who knows) and in my hopped-up adrenaline haze I instinctively clenched my hand shut, putting my finger through the trigger frame, pulling the shotty about halfway up my calf and BOOM! Bad time to have a careless reaction. Ignorant of the four rules, unprepared to use a weapon, flat-out dumb as a post: all are valid points. I fucked up, I owned up, so I super-appreciate all the support and “shit happens man” threads I see out there as well as the “lol dumbass,” “well if it were ME I would have…” and “lol ruhpublikan gun faggot, waddle on home” ones. It’s the internet, y’all, and my lack of preparedness has left me without a leg to stand on! Really shot myself in the foot on that one 🙂
No support from the government as of yet (not that I really deserve it, I guess, no sarcasm) and no one to help with the thousands of dollars in medical bills and subsequent rehabilitation. Any finger-pointing or arguments or lawsuits would be utterly retarded as shit just happens when you pull the trigger: I sorta think the grip might have been slippery and less-than-optimally designed, but I shot myself and blaming the grip or anything else would be dishonest and responsibility-diverting on a disgusting level; sure the doctor was cold, mean-spirited and gruff at best in his job yet he did stitch me up and give me my smiley-stump, but I’m the only one at fault by any measure- gotta own up if you fuck up!
A lot of folks have been asking to see “those photos” of the accident- namely, the horribly grisly ones that artfully depict my severed and smashed self. I’m not normally up to showing such personal (and disgusting) things on the internet of all places, but posting links to the photographs does add some humanity to all this writing and text by way of showing, incontrovertibly, what happened to me was very real and can happen to anyone in a bad situation. As such, I’ve posted links only to three pictures my nurse snapped for me while wheeling me in, and if/when I can get the rest from my medical files I’ll put up more, and the x-rays I’ll post tomorrow when I get a chance to scan them. Again, they’re hosted elsewhere since I don’t want my mom or something to see something that terrible while idly browsing my site. Look at these at your own risk: they are HIGHLY graphic and, well, pretty fucking gross, but they are part of my shotgun story here.
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE — REALLY FRIGGIN’ NASTY MEDIA HERE!
http://wp.me/aqSh5-bG — Exit would and shredded meat.
http://wp.me/aqSh5-bH — Another exit wound angle, shows the sheer carnage done to the tissue by the blast.
http://wp.me/aqSh5-bF — VERY graphic photo of my leg with exit wound.
Since March 14th of 2014 my website, RyanJarcy.com, has received over 35,000 hits and is way bigger than I could have ever imagined it being. Thank you all for your support and kind words (even the trolls!) over my dumb, easily-avoidable mistake. Accidents happen, even embarrassingly weird ones, and it speaks volumes of people when they reach out to the victims in thanks for their story.
Since things kicked off last week I have been asked by a shockingly large amount of people about where to make a donation to my medical bills. That means more to me than anyone could ever possibly know, and I could never verbalize how incredibly kind it is to offer me some help for my troubles, but I am conflicted about taking money from readers when it could be going to something much more important.
As such, I’m working with the Wounded Warrior Project to get a donation campaign on my site for readers to give to a charity that’s actually out there doing real good for true heroes, with 100% of the proceeds from my blog going directly to them. There’s a link to give at the bottom of the page, and we’ve been putting together a fundraising drive for RyanJarcy.com to use exclusively with the WWP that should be online by the end of the week after we meet with the Jacksonville, Florida HQ.
If my little misadventure-turned-PSA has entertained you, helped you review your own gun safety practices, given you a dude to make fun of or simply made you throw up in your mouth a little please throw some support behind the Wounded Warrior Project. Any amount helps, so please give today.