Amtrak conductor shot in Naperville progressing slowly toward recovery
Fifteen days after he was shot May 16 in Naperville, Amtrak conductor Michael Case was wheeled into his second of at least four surgeries he's expected to undergo at Edward Hospital.
The 45-year-old Homewood man is in critical but stable condition and capable of making a full recovery from the bullet that struck him in a critical area of the abdomen where fluids from the stomach, liver and pancreas converge, one of his doctors said Wednesday.
Calling the 10-year Amtrak employee a "very pleasant patient" who's "awake and talking" but not quite alert, Dr. David Piazza, trauma medical director, said it will be at least six to nine months until Case feels fully back to normal.
"He's going to be here for a long time," Piazza said. "He's extremely lucky to be alive."
The single bullet that entered Case's anterior abdomen and traveled through his body at a slightly downward angle missed some critical blood vessels by millimeters, Piazza said. If those vessels had suffered gunshot damage, Case likely wouldn't make it, he said.
Doctors and nurses on Case's large care team so far are happy with his progress. After about five days in the hospital, he was taken off a ventilator and began breathing on his own. He's eaten green Jell-O and some fruit after telling doctors he was craving ginger ale and grapes.
The food Case ate before he was shot -- an egg salad sandwich -- has complicated his recovery, as it led to aspiration pneumonia, a condition suffered when someone inhales food into the lungs.
Case's second surgery, "for continued care of the initial injury," was expected to take two to six hours Wednesday, Piazza said. He described it as "a semiurgent return to the operating room" and said doctors refer to the procedure as a "car wash" because it cleans out surgically repaired areas. For Case, that includes the pancreas and a region of the intestines called the duodenum.
"It's a notoriously difficult area to treat," Piazza said.
The surgery also was designed to ensure proper drainage of fluids. Piazza said Case could need similar procedures two more times in the weeks before he'll be discharged from Edward to a rehabilitation facility.
After physical and occupational therapy, Piazza said, Case will need another surgery to make permanent connections between the organs affected by the gunshot.
Meanwhile, the man accused of shooting Case, 79-year-old Edward Klein of West Allis, Wisconsin, has been ordered to undergo a mental fitness evaluation while he faces charges of aggravated battery and attempted murder.
Case's wife of nine years, Sara, and his son, daughter and parents have been by his bedside during many of his 15 days in the hospital. Sara Case described her husband as a Navy veteran and former private-school teacher who stayed in good shape and enjoyed being on his feet.
"Luckily he came in to us extremely healthy with no major medical conditions," Piazza said. "He came in healthy and he's a fighter."
How to help Michael CaseThe wife and family of Amtrak conductor Michael Case, who was shot May 16 in Naperville, say they're grateful for the thoughts and prayers of people from across the region who have been sending well wishes for Case's recovery. They ask for continued thoughts and prayers, and three GoFundMe pages have been set up to help cover medical costs.
Michael and Sara Case fund seeks $10,000: https://www.gofundme.com/michael-and-sara-case-fund
Help for Conductor Case's Family fund seeks $20,000: https://www.gofundme.com/help-for-conductor-case039s-family
Love for the Case Family fund seeks $50,000: https://www.gofundme.com/love-for-the-case-family