Grateful to Be Alive After Shooting

May 21, 2019

Candace Thompson Denver Health Level One Trauma Patient
Less than a year ago, Candace Thompson wasn't sure if she was going to live.

On Sept. 16, 2018, she went to a nightclub in Downtown Denver. As she was leaving and walking to her car near 15th & Market Streets, there was a shooting, and she was caught in the crossfire.

Watch Candace Thompson talk about how Denver Health's Level One Trauma Surgeons saved her life after getting caught in the crossfire of a shooting.
The next thing she remembered is waking up at Denver Health and hearing a doctor say she was "crashing," then feeling a sharp pain in her chest. Denver Health Level One Trauma surgeon Fredric Pieracci, M.D., started a thoracotomy, a surgical procedure to gain access to her heart, lungs and other organs. Her world then faded to black again, and she doesn't remember anything else until waking up three days later.

Thompson was in such bad shape that Denver Health Trauma Medical Director Barry Platnick, M.D., was called into the operating room to assist Dr. Pieracci. Dr. Platnick said that Thompson had "one of the most devastating injuries a person can have – a gunshot wound to her duodenum [small intestine] and a major injury to her blood supply, the blood vessels in that area."

Thompson sobbed, "To me, Dr. Pieracci is the most amazing person ever. He saved my life. He said I passed away for about two to three minutes. I lost a lot of blood, but he didn't give up."

Denver Health Director of Surgery Mitchell Cohen, M.D., said, "We see everything as the go-to Level One Trauma Center in the Rocky Mountain Region, from victims of automobile crashes to violence including stabbings and shootings, falls, injuries from the rodeo, injuries from rural Colorado, injuries from ski and snowboard crashes – name the injury, we have seen it."

Thompson certainly didn't want to make that list but knows that if she was not brought to Denver Health, the outcome could have been much different. "I'm alive. I'm normal. I'm walking, talking and I go to work. I drive. I go to my nephew's basketball games. I'm LIVING – something that I didn't think was going to happen! I'm just here and I'm grateful," she proclaimed.

May is National Trauma Awareness Month, and Denver Health is proud to be an international leader in the field of trauma surgery, with a 98 percent survival rate for patients with the worst types of injuries. The theme of 2019 Trauma Awareness Month is Firearm Injury Prevention: Everyday, Everyone, Everywhere. Find out more about Denver Health's efforts to prevent gun violence.

Thompson's story was first shared at the Denver Health Foundation's annual fundraiser, the NightShine Gala, honoring the Ernest E. Moore Shock Trauma Center at Denver Health.