Wounded: Life After the Shooting

Surviving a gunshot wound can be accompanied by bodily disfigurement, chronic pain or social stigma. This article examines how the lives of individuals are dramatically different after surviving a gunshot wound.

Beginning in February 2010, the author interviewed 40 gunshot victims. Interviews were conducted at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the outpatient trauma clinic over a period of six months. Field notes were taken on computer and hand-written notes were taken on a notepad during the interactions.

Key Findings:

  • Just over half of the gunshot victims interviewed retained bullets in their bodies. Surgical removal of the bullet posed more risk and possible additional damage. As a result, victims live in chronic or debilitating pain and often suffer anxiety and stress.
  • Some gunshot victims find a new sense of accomplishment as their injuries become a badge of honor.

The feelings and emotions that accompany life after a shooting encompass a life adjustment, both physical and mental. While a significant amount of social scientific research studies gun homicide, the emotional and physical changes endured by those who survive a gunshot wound is equally important. Research should take into account the victims' perspective of life after a shooting.