Against The Odds: The Remarkable Minn. Connection Between Las Vegas Shooting Survivor, Surgeon

May 22, 2018 06:10 AM

Last October, 58 people were killed, and hundreds more wounded, when a gunman opened fire on concertgoers on the Las Vegas strip.

One of those who survived was a Minnesota man.

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RELATED: Minnesota Survivors Talk About Escaping the Horror in Las Vegas

He spoke with KSTP's Jessica Miles about how he survived that horrific mass shooting and the remarkable, local connection he has with the surgeon who saved his life.

"You hear the first burst and it sounds very robotic; the second round happens and then everyone realizes what it is. It starts again and we dive down on the ground, and that's when I got shot on the left side," Philip Aurich said, describing being hit by a bullet while attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. "We get up to run and it was only a couple steps into it I realize I can't breathe because it had punctured my lung,"

With fear pushing them, Aurich and his girlfriend Alyson Opper ran, frantic to dodge the barrage of bullets raining down on them.

Aurich had a map, with white "X" marks where he said he was shot at the concert venue, a white line showing his path to escape. There were numbers on the map, showing the places where some of the 58 people died.

Once Aurich and Opper get outside the concert gates, they could see help starting to arrive, but weren't able to get assistance.

"We tried to get in an ambulance and it drove away, we tried to get into a pickup truck and it drove away," Aurich remembered.

A police officer, setting up a perimeter, helped load Aurich into his squad, speeding off, not to the closest hospital, but to University Medical Center farther away.

"I was holding onto (the police officer), looking at him with, 'What do we do in this moment, where do we go?,'" Opper recalled, with tears filling her eyes.

When they arrived at the hospital emergency room, Aurich was wheeled in. He noticed gurneys lined the hallway.

He said he remembers feeling scared and then recalled a pastor by his side.

"He was saying a prayer and I was there just trying to breathe," Aurich said. "The pain is insane but you're not crying, you're just focused on not dying at that point, trying to get to the next minute."

PHOTOS: Las Vegas Strip Mass Shooting 

His next memory would be his last for several days.

"I had a nurse working on my arm and some guy just walks in very nonchalant, a doctor, and he's putting his coat on, buttoning it up, and he was just walking down the middle of the hallway and he just stopped and said, 'He's got to go next' (pointing at Aurich)," he said.

Dr. Timothy Dickhudt had just wrapped up a 13-hour day at the hospital when he rushed back to help with the mass tragedy.

"When I got there our trauma bay, our whole trauma area was just flooded with people," Dickhudt recalled.

Dickhudt said he spotted Aurich.

"He was pale, diaphoretic [sweaty], confused, he just didn't look right, after seeing his vitals and then the eyeball test, I saw where he was shot and absolutely knew he needed to go to the operating room as soon as possible," Dickhudt said.

"Did you feel this is a patient who may not make it?  You're worried, you're worried about him," he said.

The bullet that entered Aurich's left side pierced his lung, diaphragm, and colon. It broke two ribs and shattered his spleen.

"It somehow ended up back in his chest, and that's where it's lodged, a centimeter from his heart," Dickhudt remembered.

Waking up from sedation, Aurich discovered the doctor who saved his life actually grew up in the same Twin Cities community, their two childhood homes just a couple miles apart.

RELATED: Las Vegas Strip Shooting that Killed at Least 59, Injured 527 Deadliest in Modern US History

"It blows my mind, even afterward to know, you grew up so close to me in Woodbury, we could have been friends at the time," Aurich said.

But that's not all.

"His dad and my mom went to grade school together and our grandmas grew up being very, very tight-like best friends," Aurich said.

"They were friends back in the 1950s or '60s, sorry grandma! It kind of went down one path then another and another, we just found out we had all these connections," Dickhudt added.

Aurich called it divine intervention.

"It's a great story, I think even he [Dickhudt] will admit, it's a unique story," Aurich said. 

"Very unique, I've never had something like this before. It's special, it was something special, there was a unique bond formed there," Dickhudt said.

Aurich said he is grateful he's not being remembered on a memorial fence for victims on the Las Vegas strip, and is being held a little more closely, and loved a little more deeply at home by his family.

"All that stuff has to happen in unison, and I'm not saying another doctor could not have done it, but man am I happy it was that one," Aurich said.

Other than some nerve damage in his abdomen/stomach area, Aurich is doing really well.  

The bullet is lodged about one centimeter from his heart; Dr. Dickhudt said it would be too risky to try to take it out, so that's where it will stay.

What started as a surgeon and patient relationship has grown into so much more. In fact, the two were just honored by the National Hockey League's Las Vegas Golden Knights as their hero and survivor at last week's playoff game. 

Credits

Jessica Miles

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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