Colin Goddard was shot multiple times during the Virginia Tech massacre, but doctors assured him he would eventually be "fine." Twelve years later, the now-33-year-old has discovered that's far from the case, and the reason is an unexpected one: The dozens of bullet fragments left in his body are poisoning him. Writing for Time, Melissa Chan looks at what Goddard and other shooting survivors face. Though lead has been banned from consumer paint and gasoline, it's still used in 95% of ammunition thanks to its heft, density, and low price tag. But when bullets enter the body, pieces of them often stay there: Because of the damage that can be done to healthy tissue, blood vessels, and nerves while trying to extract bullets, trauma surgeons generally only remove those near the surface or ones that pose a threat.
Chan cites stats from St. Louis and Chicago hospitals showing 75% of gunshot victims are discharged with fragments still in them. But as Goddard tells Chan, "It feels like you’re a frog in boiling water. You don’t know these small changes in you until it’s too late." Lead poisoning's symptoms are unremarkable: fatigue, headaches, nausea. Goddard had assumed he was tired because he was juggling a baby and graduate school. His mother suggested he get his blood tested: His blood lead level was 37 micrograms per deciliter; a healthy level is 2 micrograms. Lead poisoning can impact the kidneys and neurological functioning, among other things. Goddard now takes 31 pills daily in order the suppress his blood lead levels. Read the full story, which follows two other shooting survivors, here. (Read more Longform stories.)