PORT ORANGE, Fla. – A man who woke up and found his head bleeding, drove to work and left a note for his boss before going to the hospital to find he had a bullet lodged in his brain, authorities said. His girlfriend later apparently killed herself when contacted by police.
When Glen Thomas Betterley, 53, noticed the blood Thursday morning he asked Emma Lorene Larsen if she had struck him. Larsen, 65, said she didn't know.
He cleaned himself up and laid down to rest, but when the bleeding wouldn't stop he drove to work, left the note and then went to Hallifax Medical Center's emergency room, where he learned he had been shot in the forehead. He was in stable condition Friday.
While Betterley was being treated, police called Larsen and heard a single gunshot. When investigators arrived at the home, they found Larsen dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot to the head. They are calling the case an aggravated battery and apparent suicide. Police won't say what caliber of gun was used.
Betterley's reaction to the bullet in his brain is not that uncommon, a doctor said.
"I've had patients with knives in their heads, screwdrivers in their heads, lawn darts, small-caliber gunshot wounds to the head, where patients have been awake and talking," said Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, a neurosurgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center. "The question is how important is the area that is damaged?"
As long as a low-caliber bullet doesn't hit any major blood vessels or enters what is called a "non-eloquent" area of the brain — an area that doesn't have a specific, major assigned function — then a person can survive a seemingly serious gunshot to the head.
He said doctors don't even have to remove the bullet from a patient's brain and that it's just a matter of repairing the damaged area.
"It's because you have to weigh the risk of causing damage to the brain in the process of removing the bullet," Greenberg said.