When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. Should we become injured, our vessels constrict to reduce blood loss, and our body produces muscle-enhancing hormones.
If there is a downside to our internal alchemy that converts trauma into healing, pain into numbness, it is that we may not realize how severely injured we are until it is too late.
So long as we are being actively aggressed upon, we will first and foremost have to concern ourselves with the threat. But once that threat has either been neutralized or we have removed ourselves from it, we need to take stock of ourselves.
For there have been seriously injured officers who didn't know they were.
San Antonio Police Officer Dave Evans was one of them. In the aftermath of an incident wherein a suspect assaulted himself and three fellow officers, Evans really didn't realize that he had been shot.
"I just thought I got a good butt-kicking," he later recalled.
Even President Reagan didn't know how close that he'd been shot during the attempt on his life in 1981 until he got to George Washington University Hospital.
In conducting interviews with the officers profiled in my Shots Fired columns, I was surprised at how many either didn't know that they'd been injured, or if they knew they'd been injured, didn't know where their injuries were located, or their severity.
But not everyone who is shot and doesn't realize the severity of their injuries is so fortunate as to be able to reflect on their initial lack of concern.
Although wounded himself by a suspect armed with an assault rifle, a Mississippi sergeant waved off responding paramedics, directing them to attend to another officer who'd been shot. Seconds later, the sergeant himself expired from a gunshot wound to his femoral artery.
When two Brooklyn detectives observed a vehicle blow a red light in Brooklyn, they attempted a stop of the vehicle, precipitating a pursuit. At one point, they pulled alongside the suspect vehicle and were fired upon at least five times by a passenger in the car. A round struck the driver detective under his left arm and passed between the front and back panel of his bullet resistant vest and struck his heart.
Despite the injury, the detective continued the chase, an act that cost him precious seconds as he was subsequently transported to Kings County Hospital where he succumbed to his injury. One has to wonder if he'd driven directly to the hospital if he might have improved his chances for survival. As it was, he survived some six hours.
Fights are notorious sources for officer injuries, and more than one officer has unwittingly grabbed a combatant to belatedly find that the suspect was armed with a knife.
If you find yourself involved in a shooting or some other violent incident, don't just assume all's well that end's well. Inventory yourself and your partner.
May you always be pleasantly surprised to find that your initial impressions of not being injured are correct.