Congressman Steve Scalise shared the ultimate grateful patient story, recounting his comeback from a 2017 shooting to deliver remarks on the House floor.
During a keynote session before more than 1,000 registrants at the recent Association for Health Philanthropy (AHP)’s annual International Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C., the Republican from Louisiana was joined by some of those who nursed him back to health, including Susan Kennedy, R.N., B.S.N., and Jack Sava, M.D., F.A.C.S., of MedStar Health’s Washington Hospital Center.
Scalise was shot when a gunman opened fire during practice for the annual Congressional baseball game on June 14, 2017. He was in critical condition for several days and later had another setback after an infection landed him back in intensive care. He was finally discharged later that summer but it wasn’t easy. Doctors had to rebuild his shattered femur and reattach parts of his hip.
At the time, he served as majority whip, “a demanding job, even when you’re not injured,” Scalise said.
“I had to re-learn how to walk, all the basic things we take for granted,” he said. “It was a grueling process but I knew I wanted to get back to work,” Scalise said. He “focused on being able to return to the floor of the House and give an address that first day.”
Scalise co-wrote a book, “Back in the Game: One Gunman, Countless Heroes, and the Fight For My Life,” chronicling the shooting and his comeback that culminated with a speech on the House floor in September 2017.
His staff paced off the 45 steps it would take to get from his room to the House floor, found a conference room in the hospital that was not used in the evenings where he would practice walking through an aisle on crutches, without stumbling or breathing heavy. “It got to the point where I could do it — not much more than that — but I could do it,” Scalise said.
There were so many people doing their part in their own way to help Scalise return. “They don’t get to celebrate that too often,” he said. “All of these heroes — not just one, not two — all these people did incredible things” to make it happen. “It’s not being about one person coming back and seeing their friends again,” Scalise said. The tragedy could have been a dozen Congress members executed that day, he said, but it’s about a comeback and everyone coming back.
Scalise acknowledged his doctors, who were in attendance during his return speech in the House. “They operate in the shadows; they just do their job. A person is able to walk out that door and live again. They’re not doing it to get a thank you note, but they should; they don’t do it for reward, it’s a calling, a special calling. They save lives every day and they ought to be acknowledged for it.”