By Stephanie Dolan
Life can change in the blink of an eye.
For 15-year-old Dylan Matkins it may have been even quicker. Jan. 2 started out as a normal day.
“Everyone was home,” Dylan’s mom, Misty Welch, said. “My husband, my daughter, his two stepbrothers and myself.”
The next day was Dylan’s birthday, and Welch was busy that morning making plans when the unthinkable happened. An accidental shooting occurred that left Dylan bleeding on the basement floor.
“I had already dialed 911,” Welch said. “There was no exit wound. The 911 operator was telling me to initiate CPR if need be. He’d turned green, and I’d been trained at the blood center in donor reactions. I’d also just been recertified in CPR.”
Welch, 41, is an employee at Versiti Blood Center of Indiana in Greenwood.
“I know about feeling the pulse and the pallor,” she said. “There was no blood. I was pretty loud and screaming and crying, and I didn’t remember much. I was able to retrieve the 911 call later. Five minutes we’re into this 911 call and Dylan’s starting to gasp for air. In the beginning, when I went downstairs, he was barely breathing. Shortly, after a few repetitions, I could feel a faint pulse and I could tell his skin color was improving.”
After what seemed an eternity, but what was really just a matter of minutes, the ambulance arrived.
“In seven minutes the ambulance was ready to go,” Welch said. “In that time I’d changed and was in the van ready to go. I was following the ambulance, and there was a police officer behind me. I think they just knew how serious and invested I was in the situation. I was just warned to be careful. I called my pastor. I called a couple of other family members. Then we were there. It was a 10 to 11-minute ride. I was taken to a room where family goes, but I was walked in to see Dylan before emergency surgery.”
Welch was holding on tight to a chaplain’s arm because she thought she was going to pass out.
“I had 30 seconds, and his eyes were open,” she said. “I said, ‘Dylan, I love you.’”
MASSIVE BLOOD LOSS
Welch was given an update every hour of the five-hour surgery.
“It was the longest five hours ever,” she said. “For the first couple of hours they couldn’t control the bleeding.”
Dylan used 100 units of blood during his surgery.
“We call it red cells,” Welch said. “In the blood bank business your blood gets separated into different components. Red cells, platelets and plasma.”
Welch said that the platelets helped to stop the bleeding.
“It’s like trying to fill your gas tank and there’s a hole in it,” she said. “Plasma is a piggyback for platelet because of clotting. He used all three components and about 100 total in about five hours. From there the recovery process was just something out of a nightmare.”
Dylan was sedated for a couple of days as moving would have jeopardized his recovery.
“My husband stayed home and watched the house and kids,” Welch said. “Basically, my dad and I have been the backbone at the hospital. My grandmother is the saint of the family. The woman has helped me overcome depression with all of this grief and trauma, and she’s reminded me that God had a hand in all of this.”
The bullet that injured Dylan is known as an RIP bullet, and is meant to kill on impact.
“All eight fragments of the bullet are still in his body,” Welch said. “He lost a kidney and a ureter. His pancreatic duct was lacerated so badly on one side that he had to have another surgery to fix it. His liver, his bowel were also affected. Everything else is now functioning properly. My son is tall and thin as it is, and he lost 30 pounds. We were extremely grateful that they fixed his pancreas. The fact that all those bullet fragments are in him is still crazy. By the time Dylan was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 12, he’d gained a little sensation in his right leg and just a bare touch on the left.”
IMPROVEMENTS IN THERAPY
During his hospital stay, Dylan underwent daily physical and occupational therapy.
“With the help of Neuroscience Robotic Center, Dylan started on a robotic treadmill but that got shut down for weeks because of COVID. He’s harnessed up for safety, and it got things going for him. It was shortly after that that he didn’t need the robotic legs. Now he’s progressed to bearing weight on his own and walking with a walker.”
Welch said that when Dylan walks, it’s a two-person job.
“My dad might be right beside him, and I’ll follow along with a wheelchair,” she said. “Someone is always right there beside him in case he needs something.”
Dylan is currently going for therapy two times a week and was approved for a third day in June, July and August.
Dylan, a man of few words, doesn’t remember much about his accident or the days that followed, but he did say that he thought what his mom did for him on the day of the accident was just awesome.
“And I’ve learned never to take things for granted,” he said.
The Matkins-Welch family hopes that Dylan will be walking with crutches by his 16th birthday. Welch is now 16-weeks pregnant. It’s a girl.
Follow Dylan’s healing journey on Facebook at DylansArmy2020.