Teen survivor of Las Vegas shooting hopes to meet his rescuer
By RAY BREWER | Las Vegas Sun | Published: October 5, 2017
LAS VEGAS (Tribune News Service) — Nick Campbell’s first phone call was to his dad.
“He called me around 10 and said, ‘Dad, I got shot,’” Jeff Campbell said. “I said, ‘Nick, stop.’ I thought he was joking. Then I heard all of the commotion and the screaming. I told him, ‘Stay on the line; stay on the line.’ But he hung up and texted me that it hurt too much to talk.”
Nick, a 16-year-old from Henderson, is one of the roughly 500 people injured in Sunday’s mass shooting at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. A gunman opened fire from a 32nd floor room at a nearby hotel, showering the crowd of 22,000 with bullets and killing 58. One of those bullets ripped through Nick’s right shoulder.
If the bullet traveled two inches to the left, he gets shot in the head and is killed. Two inches to the right, it hits his girlfriend, with whom he attended all three days of Route 91. She wasn’t harmed.
“I feel extremely lucky. I really do,” he says.
That fortune wouldn’t have been possible without a good Samaritan who helped stop the bleeding from Nick’s wound and carried him out of the festival grounds for transportation to University Medical Center. Nick doesn’t know his name and only has a description — “probably in his 20s, tan, possibly Hawaiian and buff.” The family believes he is former military and they are determined to locate him to express their gratitude.
When the shots first started, Nick thought it was fireworks as part of Jason Aldean’s performance. About three minutes into the estimated nine minutes of shooting, Nick was hit.
The bullet went through his shoulder, cracked two ribs and collapsed his lung. Initially, the pain was manageable because of his adrenaline. He helped his girlfriend climb a pillar to safety near the stage but couldn’t make it over himself because of the injury.
So he lay beneath a dead woman, figuring the shooter — who he didn’t realize was perched overhead — wouldn’t again target the deceased.
“It was chaos. Dead bodies everywhere,” he said. “Women were running around and crying. The guys were trying to get people out of the way.”
That’s when he heard the voice of the good Samaritan asking if he was hit. The man quickly took the strings from Nick’s backpack, tying them around the teen’s shoulder to stop the bleeding. He scooped Nick above his shoulder and carried him to a row of ride-sharing vehicles waiting for the concert to end. Within a matter of seconds, the man was sprinting back into the grounds looking for more wounded.
Nick wound up losing a third of his blood, meaning the man’s quick thinking likely saved his life. He hasn’t seen him since.
The Uber ride to the hospital included another wounded man — a former soldier who was shot in the leg — and his wife, who took Nick’s cellphone and called his parents. The composed couple eased the trauma for both Nick and his parents.
He also hasn’t seen them since the ride either, only knowing the wife's name, Wendy.
“They were more worried about me (than themselves),” Nick said of the couple.
Nick’s parents arrived at UMC before he did. But hospital staff, preparing for mass casualties to arrive, weren’t allowing people in.
Nick, who is believed to be the youngest victim, was immediately seen by medical personnel in a hallway. It was determined he needed a tube inserted into his chest to expand his lungs and help with breathing, which he says was the most painful part of the process — even worse than being shot.
“They cut me open with the scalpel. No pain medicine,” he said. “I asked the guy how he did it. He said he put his whole hand (in my chest).”
He didn’t require surgery because the bullet hit his rib and shattered. He hopes to be released by Friday and is expected to make a full physical recovery.
Mentally, though, the wounds won’t heal as fast. He keeps the hospital-room television off the news because it’s constant coverage of the shooting, and he’s having a hard time sleeping because it’s easy to relive the tragedy.
“You can tell he is starting to feel it, especially at night,” Jeff Campbell said. “Reality is starting to set in. He’s not one to reach out for help, but he’s asked for a (therapist).”
Nick is only allowed two visitors at a time in his room. Tuesday night, 30 classmates from Coronado High School showed up. They visited in pairs for four hours, each bringing gifts and much-needed moral support.
“I was exhausted,” Nick joked.
He qualified for regionals last spring in track during his freshman season and also played on the ninth-grade basketball team. Basketball coach Jeff Kaufman says there’s something about Nick’s spirit that’s contagious with teammates, explaining why so many from his support system have been regular visitors at UMC.
“Very outgoing kid. Very hard-nosed kid,” Kaufman said. “He is one of those kids we put on the floor because he is scrappy and the kid bangs. He’s got that bulldog personality.”
The tragedy will cut into his sophomore season of basketball, which begins with tryouts in November. Nick was worried he would be left off the team, especially since he’s also recovering from an ACL surgery in the spring, but Kaufman is one of his biggest fans and messaged earlier in the week, “We’ll have a jersey waiting for you.”
The family, too, has been flooded with messages of encouragement — many from people they hadn’t talked to in years and who live out of state.
The incident was the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. It will go down as one of the country’s worst days along other tragic events of mass deaths such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That day — Sept. 11, 2001 — also has significance in Nick’s life. It’s the day he was born.
Nick knows he’ll be asked repeatedly to rehash what transpired in Las Vegas. When he gives his story, he’d like to include more about the Samaritan who carried him to safety.
“I would like to meet you, talk to you someday and figure out your name,” he said.
Ray Brewer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.