House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was at “imminent risk of death” when he was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound 15 weeks ago, made a dramatic return to the U.S. Capitol Thursday.
Scalise entered the House chamber on crutches to a roar of bipartisan applause, embraced several of his colleagues, and delivered his first floor remarks since the June 14 shooting.
“You have no idea how do this feels, to be back at work in the people’s House,” Scalise said, adding, “I’m definitely a living example that miracles really do happen.”
His office said that, starting Thursday, Scalise “will be resuming his work at the Capitol, while also completing an extended period of out-patient rehabilitation over the coming months.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., introduced Scalise on the House floor Thursday, asking if the “gentleman from Louisiana” wished to be recognized. “Our prayers have been answered,” he said. “American is grateful for this moment.”
The return of Scalise, a jovial back-slapper who counts close friends in both parties, was a cause for relief and celebration for lawmakers who have worked under a cloud since the shooting.
“He’s been wanting to come back forever,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who joined a crowd waiting in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall for Scalise to make his way to the chamber. “You can’t keep a good man down.”
Scalise also broke his silence on the incident and his treatment and recovery in his first media interview since the shooting. The Louisiana Republican told “60 Minutes” that a single bullet did serious damage when it struck him in the hip at a ballpark in Alexandria, Virginia.
“My femur was shattered,” he told “60 Minutes” correspondent Norah O’Donnell, according to excerpts of the interview released Thursday by CBS News. “The hip and pelvis had serious damage where the bullet went through and, you know, did some damage to areas that had to be shored up with steel plates. And then they did a phenomenal job of rebuilding – you know, kind of the, rebuilding Humpty Dumpty. I mean, there were, there was a lot of damage inside that had to get fixed.”
“They put you back together again,” O’Donnell said.
“They put me back together again,” Scalise confirmed.
A lone gunman opened fire during the GOP’s early-morning practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, shooting four people. The shooter, 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, was pronounced dead at a hospital after a gun battle with police.
Scalise suffered a single bullet wound to the hip, and as The Washington Post’s Dana Hedgpeth reported, doctors said the congressman was at “imminent risk of death” when he was first admitted to the hospital.
Wounds to the pelvic region are extremely dangerous, The Post’s Lenny Bernstein reported, because that region of the body is crowded with organs and blood vessels. Among them: the iliac blood vessels that include major arteries branching off from the aorta – the main route that carries blood to the body.
Some 30 to 50 percent of injuries to the main iliac vessels result in death, Joseph V. Sakran, director of emergency general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told The Post.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center said in a statement at the time that the bullet shot into Scalise’s hip “traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs, and causing severe bleeding.”
Scalise underwent several surgeries to repair his injuries, and his condition steadily improved under cautious care.
Nine days after the shooting, he was released from intensive care and upgraded to fair condition. But he was readmitted to the intensive care unit on July 5 because of concerns about infection, and Scalise subsequently had another operation.
He was finally discharged in late July to begin what doctors called “intensive inpatient rehabilitation.”
MedStar could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday on Scalise’s interview about his recovery.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Mike Debonis, Lindsey Bever