Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) returned to Capitol Hill last week to a standing ovation. It was his first time on the House floor since being shot at a congressional baseball practice in June.
POLITICO Magazine has published an exclusive with Scalise in which the representative describes his near-death experience in great detail, as well as the heroes who saved his life.
“I still had enough energy to start crawling—I’m crawling just to get away. And then my arms just gave out. And at that point, I’m just lying on the ground and I’m hearing gunfire. And so I just started praying. I mean, literally, just started praying. It was weird: I got almost an ease over me, because I felt like, you know what, there’s nothing I can—I can’t move. So I’m just going to pray to God and put in his hands.”
His experience in the hospital was just as frightening. He was unconscious at the time but he has since learned that, upon arrival at Medstar Washington Hospital Center, doctors said he was one minute from eternity.
The doctors impressed upon Jennifer how dire the situation was: The bullet had traveled through her husband’s hip, shattering the femur and doing significant damage to the pelvis. He’d lost a significant amount of blood. With bullet fragments lodged in his muscle tissue and organs, doctors had to keep Scalise open for hours after the helicopter landed, struggling to remove bits of shrapnel and plug fresh fonts of blood. “That night it could have gone the other way a few times,” Scalise says. “When I got to the hospital, they said I was within a minute of death if they didn’t get some blood back into my system. So it was very severe. And you know, I’m unconscious through all of that. So they cut me open [and] did a lot of procedures on me that first day.”
Scalise reiterated his answered prayers on the House floor last week.
"The power of prayer is just not something you can underestimate," he told his colleagues. "I am a living example that miracles do happen."
He thanked the police officers on duty who put themselves in the line of fire, particularly David Bailey and Crystal Griner.
Republicans and Democrats were on their feet and in tears as Scalise limped into Congress on crutches last Thursday morning. One of the most emotional reunions came between him and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who collapsed in tears when he saw his friend sitting for a CBS interview. Just as moving was his embrace with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), a friend and doctor who was on the baseball field that fateful day and applied a near perfect tourniquet to Scalise's wound that may very well have saved his life.
Scalise, who loves baseball with a childlike admiration, was disappointed he couldn't be with his teammates at the congressional game. But, between his colleagues praying in centerfield, Nancy Pelosi sporting an LSU t-shirt, and the victorious Democrats gifting their trophy to his hospital room, Scalise's presence was still very much felt.
It's a long road to recovery, but Scalise is standing.