WASHINGTON -- President Reagan, contrasting the attempt on his life a year ago today with his experiences as an actor in Hollywood films, says he now knows you do not always get an immediate sense of pain from a gunshot wound.
Reagan made the observation in WJLA-TV's docu-drama 'The Saving of the President' to be aired this evening at 9 p.m. EST.
The president appears in one sequence with three of the George Washington University surgeons who were instrumental in saving his life when he was shot in the left chest last March 30 in front of the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Reagan said he had experienced only simulated gunshot wounds before. 'I'd only had 'em in the movies, and you always react as if you were hurt immediately,' he said.
'I still can't get over the fact of the delay between when I know now that I was shot, but didn't know then, and the feeling of pain,' he said. 'I always just assumed if you were shot, you felt it, felt it right then. But it was, I was all the way in the car, and then suddenly this pain, and that's why I thought that the agent (Jerry Parr, chief of the White House Secret Service detail) who jumped in and shielded me had maybe broken my rib when he, because, obviously, I was shot outside the car. We know now where, and I still can't get over that period of delay in which there was no pain.'
Three surgeons participated in the TV film -- Dr. Ben Aaron, chest specialist who operated on Reagan, Dr. David Gens and Dr. Paul Columbani.
Aaron told Reagan the doctors had 'hashed over the things' to determine whether anything should have been done differently and decided that 'everything came off as about as well as it possibly could.'
'I think so too,' Reagan said. 'Well, I feel very lucky, very lucky that we went where we went when we did.'
'This is giving me a chance to express a little gratitude to all of you,' he said. 'I remember very well, walking into that emergency room, not even knowing that I'd been shot, and instantly the efficiency and everything else, and the warm, and all the ... I only learned afterward in reading about it afterward, that, I wasn't quite as well as I might have thought I was at the time.'
Reagan told Aaron, 'Well, I understand that you really kind of loaded me up with other people's blood. About a whole full charge. Now, am I back on my own blood now, and if so where did the other blood go?'
'You had eight units of blood, is what you had, and that blood will go through your system, and you'll get rid of it in a space of maybe three to five, six weeks, something like that. And all that, you know, your whole blood supply is refurbished constantly anyway, that is your red blood cells are constantly taken up and broken down and new cells are being made, so the cells you carry around from somebody else, the same thing happens, in fact they're broken down even a little sooner, because they ... they're fragile by this point, being somewhat older, so, that's all gone whosoever they were, they missed their chance.'