Returning home after church on Sunday, 11-year-old Seth Fahner quickly finished his chores and got permission to go outside and play at a neighbor’s house. Less than 30 minutes later, his sister ran back to advise her parents that Seth had been shot with a pellet gun. They found him sitting on the back porch steps spitting up blood and finding it difficult to breathe.
Police and an ambulance soon arrived to transport Seth to Richland Hospital near their home in South Carolina. His mother rode at his side coaxing conversation to keep him conscious. Following initial scan results, the Emergency Room physician announced that the projectile had entered and was lodged in Seth’s heart.
Realizing advanced care would be needed quickly to save his life, arrangements were made to transport Seth by helicopter to the Trauma Center at Carolinas Medical Center (CMC). While racing to Charlotte some 90 miles away, the Fahner's cell phone rang requesting verbal permission to begin the surgery. The voice on the phone shared the urgency of Seth’s condition: “We can’t wait for your arrival…we need to begin the surgery now.”
Seth underwent open heart surgery at 4 pm that Sunday afternoon. His pediatric cardiac surgeon was Dr. Benjamin Peeler. His parents arrived minutes after the start - confused and frightened for the outcome of the procedure. But 20 minutes later, they got a phone call from the OR letting them know that Dr. Peeler had successfully removed the pellet!
Seth took his first walk down a hallway inside Levine Children’s Hospital on Wednesday and joined his brother and sister back at home three days later. Seth’s story had a happy ending but that doesn’t turn out as well for many hundreds of other children in the U.S. each year injured or killed by guns.
According to Dr. David Jacobs, Medical Director of Trauma Services at CMC, more than two million American children live in or near homes where guns are kept unlocked and loaded. “Parents have both the right and responsibility to ask if there is a gun in a home before their children go to play there,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Parents need to talk about guns in their home or that of a neighbor in order to make children safer.”
Visit the Congenital Heart Center at Levine Children's Hospital to learn more about pediatric cardiovascular surgery.