Donald Young died in the streets of Spokane. Twice.
But thanks to prompt medical attention and doctors he called simply amazing, the 57-year-old survived the gunshot wound that ripped through his stomach in December 2009. Five surgeons helped save his life.
Now Young passes the time in his home on a small property west of Spokane, grateful to be alive and hoping to enjoy another boating season.
“I can’t say enough about the medical system,” he said.
Were it not for medics who reached him in the crucial minutes after the shooting, Young likely would have joined 15 homicide victims in Spokane County that year. That number dropped to 10 last year, due in part to increased curbside medical tactics. It’s the lowest homicide rate in Spokane County in more than a decade.
“He’s a walking tribute to our emergency medical system,” Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said of Young. “If you’re suffering from a dramatic event like a gunshot or stabbing, really we only have 10 minutes to care for that patient.”
Young hasn’t been the only close call in recent years. Medics believe a man shot in East Central Spokane last summer would have bled to death had police not applied QuikClot, a clotting agent, to his wounds. A man stabbed in the neck in north Spokane survived last June because of the same procedure.
Five officers involved in those incidents were honored Feb. 17 with the Spokane Police Department’s life-saving awards.
Grant money has paid for QuikClot devices for every patrol officer.
Officer Jennifer DeRuwe, Spokane police spokeswoman, said they’re new in the past couple of years and can make a big difference.
In Young’s case, Schaeffer was one of several medics who arrived within minutes of the gunfire. Young was in a 1995 Mitsubishi, stopped at a light at Division Street and Buckeye Avenue on Dec. 18, 2009, when Joseph P. Ellery, armed with a handgun, got in the car.
Young grabbed the gun and struggled with Ellery, who was sentenced in November to 13 years in prison.
“I don’t even remember the bang,” Young said.
He also doesn’t remember the two weeks he spent in the hospital but is sure of one thing: “I had the best health care I’ve ever had.”
“I mean, those people, they saved my life,” he said. “They didn’t even ask me if I had insurance until the fifth day.”
Between the shooting and emergency surgery, Young lost 21 pints of blood; he avoided paralysis by just a quarter of an inch. He still has a hole in a disk in his back and may need another surgery.
“I made it through Vietnam and I never had trouble like this,” he said. The Spokane County Crime Victims Compensation fund paid his medical bills.
Schaeffer said medics revived Young at the shooting scene and in an ambulance en route to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
“Basically, he died in front of us,” Schaeffer said, but medics had the equipment “to basically do everything to him that they would do in the emergency room, right in the streets of Spokane.”