FAIRFIELD — The pain felt like he had just been hit by a baseball bat.
Rashad Craft fell to the driveway outside of his mother’s Suisun City home on Aug. 9 after he was shot in the back by one of two young men who had demanded that he open the garage door to let them inside. Craft refused and, during the ensuring struggle, was shot.
The bullet punched through the 37-year-old cable technician’s back, went through his stomach, nicked his diaphragm, damaged his lung and liver, and exited his lower chest.
Yells for help didn’t bring anyone, so he crawled into the kitchen, where he managed to alert his mother, who then called 911.
He was feeling numb, gasping for air, scared and panicking, but he did not want to let go, Craft said later.
Craft had just entered what NorthBay Medical Center Trauma Center medical director Dr. Peter Zopfi calls the “golden hour,” where a victim’s chances of survival are the greatest if he gets prompt emergency medical care.
Zopfi was one of the team of people, starting with the paramedics, who worked together to get the critically wounded man through that hour and then in the next days, to get him back on his feet.
More than three months later, Craft came back to NorthBay on Wednesday to thank Zopfi and the other doctors, nurses and medical personnel who saved his life and allowed him to spend this Thanksgiving with his wife and children.
“It was very rewarding to meet Rashad. They (the patients) leave the ER so quickly, we never get to see the result,” said trauma nurse Robert Fogliasso, one of those on duty that day.
Craft told the assembled NorthBay team, “I appreciate everything that you did. I am in your debt. You allowed me to go home and see my kids.”
“I will be eating dinner with my family and thinking how grateful I am to be here,” Craft said of his Thanksgiving Day plans.
Zopfi said Craft’s survival and recovery represents “what we want to achieve in this trauma clinic” – the importance of having a well-equipped and well-staffed trauma center close to home with a dedicated, expert emergency response team.
When Craft came through the doors of the emergency room on what was already a busy day, a trauma team was activated to receive him. Emergency physician Dr. Rizwan Tokhi and trauma surgeon Dr. Rachel Hight found him awake, very scared and trying to breathe.
Hight was an Air Force trauma surgeon who was working at NorthBay as part of a training agreement with David Grant Medical Center that helps military medical personnel prepare for wartime deployment. Hight inserted a chest tube to drain blood from Craft’s chest cavity and make his breathing easier. The staff also stabilized Craft’s condition so that he could be passed on to trauma surgeons Zopfi and Dr. Robert Fulton for three hours of surgery.
When Craft regained consciousness later, “I was thinking, ‘Can I walk?’ Will I be able to move around again?’ ” Craft said.
He said it was an immense relief to be told he was doing fine and that his recovery was all up to him.
That recovery included a tough-love approach from ICU nurses such as Jennifer Tudor, who worked with Craft and sometimes pushed him to get up, moving and breathing when he did not want to.
He spent 15 days at NorthBay before he was cleared to leave the hospital. That time included a second surgery for blood clots in his lungs and fluid buildup. He is still recuperating.
Craft said the experience completely changed his life, pointing out that he had lost his grandparents to gun violence as well as his brother, who was killed in 1999. He said it is important to him to be there for his children, that he is happy he still gets to wake up and see his boys every day.
He also plans to get back to coaching youth football and basketball, he said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.