Book Excerpt: 'The Survivors Club'

Her friends gasped at the needle and urgently calculated the options. First and foremost, should they try to pull it out? "No, don't touch it," Klor declared. It was pure instinct: She didn't want anyone to go near the injury until she was at the hospital. Doctors would say later this was the ? rst decision that helped save her life. Plucking the spike would have been like pulling a plug or uncorking a bottle, and she might have bled out in the living room. Indeed, when Australian crocodile hunter Steve Irwin was speared in the chest by a bull ray while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in 2006, some experts believe his fatal mistake was yanking out the stinger. The ray's venom didn't kill him. Rather, when he ripped the serrated barb from his chest, it wounded his left atrium and ventricle, causing more bleeding and cardiac arrest. The damage from pulling out the stinger was far greater than the trauma of it going in.

Now Klor and her friends faced the next critical question: Should they jump in a car and race to the emergency room? "No," Klor decided. "Call 911 right now." Waiting for the paramedics was a second lifesaving choice. If the needle had moved even the slightest amount in transit to the ER, the injury to her heart might have proven fatal. So Klor carefully sat down on a sofa to wait for the ambulance. She felt alert and even noticed something very odd. She had been impaled and yet there wasn't a single drop of blood anywhere. How was this possible? The next string of images flew by like a strange TV drama about herself. Paramedics. Stretcher. Si-rens. IV. Oxygen. Emergency room. CT scan.

At the Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Klor waited anxiously for the ER doctors to tell her the extent of her problems. To distract herself, she focused on her daughter, Callie. Klor had waited until she was forty-two to have a child and had been blessed with a beautiful girl. Ever since Callie's birth in April 1993, Klor had found real joy in life. Now in the ER with a knitting needle jutting from her chest, she wondered: How can I die when I'm finally happy? The answer was clear: She needed to stay alive for Callie. Her thoughts also turned to her husband, Hal, a research engineer and tough guy who once hiked two miles on a broken ankle. His idea of a vacation involved trekking in the Himalayas, and he sometimes teased her lovingly that she was "a little wimpy." What would Hal say when he heard about this?

When the ER team finally briefed her on the results of her scans, she felt the first flood of fear. Their tone was urgent. The needle had penetrated her sternum, the long flat breast-bone that's supposed to protect the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels from trauma. Over the years, her physicians had extracted every imaginable object sticking from every conceivable body part, but they told her this was brand-new. With fifty million knitters in the United States, there were literally hundreds of millions of needles across the country, but in the trauma world Ellin Klor was a celebrity.

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