In­juries Heal, but Men­tal Scars May Last Much Longer

The Washington Post Sunday - - Shooting Rampage At Virginia Tech - By Sand­hya So­mashekhar and Nick Miroff

Nearly a week af­ter Se­ung Hui Cho killed 32 peo­ple, dozens of his lesser-known vic­tims, some of whom avoided death by frac­tions of an inch as the bul­lets flew, are be­gin­ning to heal.

Many of the 30 wounded were shot while crouch­ing un­der class­room desks, afraid that the gun­man’s next round would find them. Some were struck when they raised their hands in pan­icked at­tempts to stop bul­lets aimed at their heads. Oth­ers jumped from class­room win­dows and were in­jured when they hit the ground.

The sever­ity of their in­juries ranges widely. Some will re­quire re­con­struc­tive surgery and ex­ten­sive phys­i­cal ther­apy; oth­ers are heal­ing rel­a­tively quickly from su­per­fi­cial wounds and bro­ken bones.

Five of the in­jured re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized in the Blacks­burg area last night, all but one in stable or good con­di­tion, of­fi­cials said. Sean McQuade of New Jer­sey is in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, with a bul­let lodged in his brain.

Among the Wash­ing­ton area wounded are Kristina Heeger, 19, of Vi­enna, who was shot in the stom­ach, and Katelyn Car­ney, 21, of Ster­ling, who was struck in the hand. Doc­tors will not say how many in­juries were caused by gun­fire.

In the min­utes and hours af­ter the mas­sacre, McQuade was among three stu­dents shot in the head who were rushed to Car­il­ion Roanoke Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal, said Syd­ney J. Vail, its di­rec­tor of trauma. One of the stu­dents died; an­other re­mains at a Fair­fax hospi­tal with a bro­ken jaw

Vail said McQuade would prob­a­bly re­main hos­pi­tal­ized for six to eight weeks, and a pres­sure mon­i­tor has been in­serted in his cra­nium to guard against dan­ger­ous swelling. It was too early to tell whether he would have long-term dam­age, Vail said.

Some in­juries were ex­ac­er­bated by the 9mm jack­eted hollow-point bul­lets that Cho used, said Vail, a spe­cial­ist in bal­lis­tic in­juries. When hollow-point rounds hit the body, they spread into metal­lic petals “like a flower,” Vail said.

“When the bul­let opens, it ex­pands, cre­at­ing a larger wound­ing chan­nel,” he said. “There are leaflets, or petals, that peel back.”

The re­cov­ery for oth­ers will not be so long. Derek O’Dell was hit in the arm when Cho burst into his Ger­man class and be­gan shoot­ing. Af­ter the gun­man left the room, O’Dell and two class­mates wedged their feet against the door, strain­ing to keep him out as he shot through the wood.

“I don’t even feel like I can com­plain or any­thing, con­sid­er­ing what hap­pened to some other peo­ple,” said O’Dell, 20, rest­ing yes­ter­day at home in Roanoke.

O’Dell’s fa­ther ex­pects his son’s arm to be out of its sling in a week or two. The other part of his re­cov­ery could take longer.

“There’s two kinds of health to be look­ing at, the phys­i­cal health and the men­tal health,” said Roger O’Dell. “So far, he’s been good in that re­gard. But to tell you the truth, none of us have had time to take it in and think about what hap­pened and how bad it was.”

It might be days, weeks or months be­fore the wounded feel the full emo­tional weight of what they have ex­pe­ri­enced, said Ted Fein­berg, as­sis­tant ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of School Psy­chol­o­gists, who coun­seled stu­dents at Columbine High School af­ter the shoot­ings in 1999. About one in five will ex­pe­ri­ence se­vere de­pres­sion, post-trau­matic stress dis- or­der and other se­ri­ous mal­adies, he said.

“Here you have a beau­ti­ful, pas­toral cam­pus, a lovely quiet set­ting, and now it will never be the same,” he said of Vir­ginia Tech. “I hate to ad­mit it, but it will never be the same.”

A year af­ter Columbine, men­tal health groups saw a spike in fam­i­lies seek­ing help for de­pres­sion and sub­stance abuse at­trib­uted to a de­layed re­ac­tion. The com­mu­nity ex­pe­ri­enced a rash of sui­cides, and much of the school’s staff has quit, said Fein­berg and oth­ers familiar with the school.

But about 60 per­cent of those ex­posed to trauma cope with sup­port only from friends and fam­ily, Fein­berg said.

Vir­ginia Tech stu­dent Colin Ly­nam God­dard, 21, of Rich­mond was shot three times but was on his feet Thurs­day, im­pa­tiently test­ing his doc­tors’ lim­its. “This morn­ing he walked five or six steps in his room. They were ready for him to sit down, and he said ‘Let’s go into the hall­way,’ ” his mother, Anne Ly­nam God­dard, said.

Al­though they’ve had the news on, they haven’t been pay­ing much at­ten­tion. But Colin rec­og­nized him­self in an iconic pho­to­graph of a young man and wo­man be­ing car- ried out of Nor­ris Hall.

“You can see his head kind of hang­ing down; that’s my son,” said Anne God­dard, pres­i­dent of the Rich­mond-based Chris­tian Chil­dren’s Fund.

The Vir­ginia State Po­lice trooper who car­ried him has vis­ited, and friends have been com­ing. There have also been quiet mo­ments as a fam­ily. Med­i­cal per­son­nel had put mother and son on the phone to­gether as Colin was first in the rush of the emer­gency room.

“He said to­day that he felt safe once he heard my voice,” Anne God­dard said.

Cho shot twice into Chang Min Pak, 27, of Seoul — through his side, arm and hand. Re­cov­er­ing at his apart­ment in Blacks­burg, he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view that his phys­i­cal wounds are heal­ing, but the or­deal is too painful to talk about. “I guess I need some rest,” he said.

The fam­ily of Justin Klein, a 2004 Ca­tonsville High grad­u­ate who was shot twice in his leg and once in his el­bow, re­leased a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing he’d be re­leased from the hospi­tal soon.

Guillermo Col­man of Har­rison­burg, Va., was shot twice, once in the head and once in the shoul­der. A 9mm slug had lodged in his skull. Sur­geons re­moved it, and he was re- leased Tues­day.

Col­man, 38, was re­ceiv­ing well­wish­ers Wed­nes­day. “Gil was stand­ing in the drive­way wait­ing for us. Just the ini­tial sight of him stand­ing there was just amaz­ing,” said Chris Strock, an­other stu­dent. “He said he’s al­ready for­given the univer­sity and for­given the shooter.”

Dan Car­ney said his sis­ter Katelyn, 21, a ju­nior, was re­cov­er­ing from a gun­shot wound to the left hand and felt well enough to ful­fill a prom­ise to serve as maid of honor at their sis­ter’s wed­ding this week­end. “Ev­ery­one’s go­ing to wear a white glove on their left hand” at the cer­e­mony to show sup­port for Katelyn, her brother added.

She was wounded in the Ger­man class and was one of the stu­dents who helped O’Dell block Cho’s re­turn to their class­room.

Demian Yakel, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon treat­ing five of the in­jured at Mont­gomery Re­gional in Blacks­burg, said his pa­tients were con­scious and in good spir­its, talk­ing to each other in the hall­ways and in the phys­i­cal ther­apy room.

“They’re all very pos­i­tive,” Yakel said at a brief­ing. “They don’t want to be beaten down by this. They’re re­ally fired up about get­ting bet­ter. They’re drag­ging our phys­i­cal ther­a­pists down the hall­way.” Staff writ­ers Ta­mara Jones, Michael Laris and Carol D. Leon­nig and re­searcher Magda Jean-Louis con­trib­uted to this re­port.


The 9mm jack­eted hollow-point bul­lets Cho used ex­ac­er­bated some in­juries, says Syd­ney J. Vail, di­rec­tor of trauma at Car­il­ion Roanoke Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal. The rounds spread into metal­lic petals “like a flower” when they hit the body.

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