JFK could have survived the assassination attempt if not for the back brace he was wearing, according to a doctor who treated the wounded President at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
As the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy nears, people are taking a closer look at the events of the tragic day that took the life of the 35th President of the United States.
President Kennedy was not a healthy man. As a child, his mother described him as “a very, very sick little boy.” During Word War Two, Kennedy survived the sinking of PT-109, further damaging his already weak back. After the war, he suffered from Colitis and Addison’s disease. Kennedy received the last rites at least three times prior to that fateful day in Dallas.
As an adult, Kennedy suffered from severe back pain.He had to wear a back brace to be able to function in public and keep up with a very busy schedule.
Dr. Kenneth Slayer, a 27-year-old resident at Parkland Hospital, was on duty for head injuries when the call came on November 22, 1963 that the President had been shot.
“A nurse ran into the room and said, ‘The president’s been shot,'” Slayer recalled of the historic moment.
Nothing could have prepared the young man for what he saw that day. As he examined a gravely wounded JFK, he realized that his chances of survival were slim.
Even though Kennedy was still breathing, Slayer says the wound to the President was a “major high-velocity injury.”
“And it’s in a critical place,” he said. “So the chances are pretty slim. And if he did survive, what would we have?”
When ER personnel removed the President’s clothes so the Doctors could attended to JFK, Slayer noticed something unusual. The President was wearing a heavy, corset-like brace that went from his chest to below his waist, which he believes cost Kennedy his life.
Through the years, Dr. Slayer has reviewed the autopsy report and looked at the Zapruder film frame by frame, and the conclusion is always the same.
“The first shot that hit him went through the soft tissue of the back of his shoulder (…) and exited through his trachea,” the doctor says. “That same bullet went through John Connally’s chest, through his right hand and into his thigh and knocked him completely down in the car.”
This is the so-called “magic bullet.” However, the second shot was the fatal one that killed Kennedy.
“And then this is the second shot of JFK (…) He’s still upright as a target, because he has the brace on, which makes it possible for Lee Harvey Oswald to hit him with a second shot,” Salyer says. “I think that would not have happened if he had gone down like John Connally did.”
Kennedy’s injuries were so extensive that he was pronounced dead just 30 minutes after the shooting.
“I’d lost my hero in my hands, and he was gone,” Salyer says.
And in a scene Slayer says he will never forget, Mrs. Kennedy approached her dead husband.
“We had covered him up after pronouncing him,” he says. “She came over and leaned over his chest and took his hand out and put a ring on and did a ring ceremony as I witnessed that very delicate moment.”
A very personal moment in the chaos that followed the assassination of JFK in Dallas on November 22, 1963.