CBS's Bob Schieffer put forth an outstanding video summary of events 30 years ago today when John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan.
As Schieffer points out, Reagan was wounded and his Secret Service agents didn't know it. They hustled Reagan into the limo and were driving fast to the White House. Agent Jerry Parr was sitting next to Reagan in the limo.
"My job, then, was to see if he'd really been hit," Parr said. "I ran my hands up under his coat, around his belt line. And I started workin' up, up, up, up in the armpit area. Up into the back of his neck, through his hair and everything. And I didn't see any blood at all.Parr immediately ordered the procession to the nearest hospital.
"But about Dupont Circle, he started spitting up this blood - profuse amounts of red, bright red, frothy blood," Parr said. "And I thought, 'Well, what would cause that?' Maybe landing on top of him cracked a rib. Maybe it punctured a lung."
By chance, the closest hospital was on the campus of George Washington University, a hospital that had a dedicated team of trauma doctors and nurses standing-by - something few other hospitals had in those days.Reagan insisted upon arrival that he would walk unaided into the hospital, which he did. He had proceeded only a few feet inside the building when he simply pitched over and landed flat on his front. Even in the emergency room, no one knew why Reagan was bleeding. Hinckley had used a .22-caliber pistol and the sole bullet that hit Reagan actually had ricocheted off the limo's door frame before striking him under his left armpit. Its entrance wound was tiny and hardly bleeding. Almost all his observed bleeding was exiting through Reagan's mouth and nose but most blood was simply accumulating his his thorax. Doctors began to drain this blood through a tubal insertion, thinking it would decline rapidly, but it didn't decline at all. Only then did they conduct a close exam of Reagan's upper body and so discovered the entrance wound.
By this time the president had lost about 40 percent of his blood volume and was in real danger of dying. He was x-rayed and rushed to surgery that saved his life. A detailed and excellent factual account of the day and its aftermath was given in a one-hour documentary in 2003, "Saving Ronald Reagan."