Preston’s Story: Life-Saving Care After a Gunshot Wound

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Preston Alexander was shot in the abdomen and chest, and had multiple life-threatening injuries. He had injuries to his pancreas and colon, and a heart laceration.

“It looked real bad. I didn’t think Preston was going to make it,” said Karen Alexander, Preston’s mother. “It looked so bad, that he was just hanging on by a thread.”

“After just a couple of minutes, he started to lose consciousness,” said John Bini, MD. “We decided to intubate him, or put a breathing tube in him…he immediately lost all vital signs, he didn’t have a blood pressure, didn’t have a pulse, so effectively he died.”

The decision was made by Dr. Bini to open Preston’s chest and put a clamp across his aorta, a procedure called a resuscitative thoracotomy.

Preston was taken to the operating room where Dr. Bini performed damage control surgery to stop the bleeding and repair life-threatening injuries to Preston’s abdomen. After surgery, he was moved to the intensive care unit to begin the healing process.

“We spend a lot of time with the family, educating them on what’s going on and even being a shoulder to cry on,” said Kelly Winship, RN, BS, SICU. “We spent a lot of time reassuring Preston; he would open his eyes, even when he was really sick, he looked really scared.”

“There were times when I thought they were trying to heal me,” said Karen. “I had my moments where I would break down or I couldn’t stand to be in the room…where I had to go sit down and talk to somebody.”

‘When You Take Care of These Patients, They Become a Part of You’

A Whipple procedure was done to remove and repair part of Preston’s pancreas and abdomen. “The pancreatic head and the duodenum were effectively devastated by the gunshot wound,” Dr. Bini said. “The decision was made to proceed with a pancreaticoduodenectomy, otherwise known as a Whipple procedure, which is extremely complicated.”

James Ouellette, DO, FACS, surgical oncologist at Miami Valley Hospital, performed the Whipple procedure. “We use that procedure mostly with removing tumors from the duodenum or the pancreas,” Dr. Ouellette explained. “Once they’ve been removed, we use sutures to reconnect all of the things we disconnected, which of course we disconnect on purpose when there’s a tumor. This was not so much on purpose.”

Preston was transferred to a rehabilitation center when he left Miami Valley Hospital. He was able to go home three and a half months after being shot.

“I feel like I met so many good people here,” Preston said. “Took real good care of me…I’m able to tell my story.”

“When you take care of these patients, they become a part of you,” Dr. Bini said. “The relationship with that patient is special. The question shouldn’t be, ‘How do you persist,’ it should be, ‘How does anyone not?’”

“These tears are tears of joy because the team here saved my life,” Preston said.

Karen said, “It’s a great feeling knowing I’m not going to a cemetery looking at my son’s grave. Some mothers didn’t get that second chance like I did. And I’m grateful for that. I really am.”

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