The following article is an excerpt of an article written about Randy Davis. The whole article is considerably longer, and it addresses topics that are important but outside the scope of topics discussed on this blog.
When he was 37, Randy Davis enlisted in the US Army Reserves and participated in Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. After an 8-year term of service, Randy received an Honorable Discharge. Some people might conclude I chose to share Randy’s story because of what happened during his time in the military, but the fact is I chose to share the story because of what happened long before his military or civilian careers began.
On November 3rd, 1984, Randy and several of his new schoolmates drove to a canyon in northern San Diego, set up targets, and shot the targets until sundown when most of the group decided to call it a night. However, Randy wanted to enjoy the wooded night air for a few more moments, so he briefly separated from the group. The other teens returned to the pickup truck that had ferried them to the desert. About 100 yards away, Randy was climbing out of the canyon when one of the teenagers pulled the trigger of a .22 rifle several times.
Randy describes what happened next, “I heard the gunshot and a fraction of a second later my head snapped back. The pain was excruciating and I tumbled over an embankment. I was howling in pain as I cradled my broken face, feeling blood pouring between my fingers.”
Randy remembers looking up in the moonlight and seeing blood spurt from a hole somewhere on the right side of his face. It turns out the first bullet entered 1/4″ from the right corner of his right eye, burrowing through bone, tissue, and brain matter. It came to rest in the right temporal lobe of his brain. A second bullet grazed the left side of Randy’s head, just taking a chunk of flesh with it as it sped by at 1,300 feet per second.
Randy remained conscious, crawled his way up the embankment, and staggered toward the truck headlights. The other four teenagers rushed him to the local trauma center in Escondido, CA. The battle to survive continued on that mad dash to the emergency room.
“I had been reading survival manuals and military history, planning on a Military career. Suddenly I find myself in the back of a pickup, one arm wrapped around the roll bar and the other hand held against my gushing head wound. I had a moment of clarity going through First Aid stuff I’d learned over my short 16 years. I realized I needed a bandage to control the external bleeding and pulled an old handkerchief from my back pocket. Then I remember thinking, ‘OK I’m going into shock, what do I do for that? Oh yeah, elevate feet, head, and stay warm.’ I staggered into the Trauma center at Palomar Memorial Hospital, fully conscious, covered in mud and blood, with a bullet in my brain, but ALIVE.”
The survival ordeals of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), are not just limited to what happens at the scene of the injury but also continues once the patient is in medical care. Randy had stopped the external bleeding but was still bleeding inside the skull which puts pressure on the brain from the fluids that cannot drain. Emergency brain surgery was performed to remove the bullet and damaged brain matter. No one knew what the outcome would be. However, several hours later, God allowed Randy to return and begin a 2nd chance at life.
According to Randy,” I did my own research years later and came across a published study by the Centers for Disease Control. The study said ‘Firearm related Traumatic Brain Injuries, result in a 9:10 death ratio.’ So I’m 1:10 that survived, pretty slim odds of survival.”
When he turned 18, Randy went to Army recruiters, still wishing to serve his country. After telling the recruiters about his shooting, he was told, “YOU CAN’T EVEN BE DRAFTED!” So Randy wandered, lost for years, not being able to do what he wanted to do since he was a child — serve his country. Randy worked many dead-end jobs over the years, still dealing with PTSD and not having any resources. Until he found the National Head Injury Foundation, now the Brain Injury Association of America, and found people who understood TBI.
With proper therapy and resources, Randy moved forward in life, going back to college, earning an Associate’s Degree in Administration of Justice, magna cum laude. Randy took a job providing security at a factory in Richmond, VA. This lead to an almost 10 year career in Law Enforcement in Virginia and Colorado.
In 2005, Randy enlisted, and was accepted, into the US Army Reserves. “I was 16 years old when I got shot, then 20 years later, I’m shipping off for Basic Training!!” He went through the Army Engineer Heavy Equipment Operator School at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. Randy drove trucks and heavy equipment and managed to complete 8 years of service in the Army without being shot again.
November of 2013 marked his 29th Anniversary of surviving being shot in the head. He spent the day at his Army Unit in Denver, CO, being grateful. “I have to look at each day as a grace from God. Every day I’m still here, I’ve been given a second chance at life.”
Now, Randy works in Industrial Security in Northern Colorado. “I read a story in a local paper in the early 1990’s about another TBI survivor. That lead me to find the support and resources I needed to move forward in life. I want to return the favor,” Davis says. “The incidents and statistics of TBI are staggering, yet public awareness is virtually nil. I want to be a face for Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI. For other TBI survivors, don’t let anyone tell you can’t do something. It just takes time and hard work, NEVER QUIT!”
Thanks to Randy Davis for sharing his story; Brain Injury Association of America for pointing Randy to the resources he needed; Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIAC) helping Randy; Tina Ziwak (BIAC Special Events Coordinator) for her role; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.