Doctor recalls effort to save JFK after assassination

Dr. Robert McClelland shares the story of treating President John F. Kennedy at Parkland after he was shot in Dealey Plaza.

DALLAS – Dr. Robert McClelland, now retired, was on the medical team that tried to save President John F. Kennedy after he was shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

"One of our senior residents came up to me and said, 'Dr. Mac, they've just called the emergency room, and said they were bringing President Kennedy in from downtown' — that he had been shot in his motorcade," Dr. McClelland said.

He was 34 years old at the time. He knew the president was on his way to Dallas' Parkland Hospital, but didn't know how bad the situation really was.

"Sitting outside of Trauma Room One on a folding chair was Mrs. Kennedy, in her bloody clothing, and I thought to myself, 'My God, this is just what they said it was,'" he said.

The president's heart was still beating, but it became clear they were fighting a losing battle. Despite their efforts, President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead at 1 p.m.

"It's indescribable — never anything before or since has affected me like that, needless to say," Dr. McClelland said. "I can't describe — I'm not adequate to describe — how it felt, but obviously, it was a terrible thing."

All these years, McClelland has kept a piece of that day with him. Something that's not on display, but rather tucked away inside his Dallas home; the shirt he was wearing in the operating room, stained by the president's blood.

"A very critical memento of that terrible event," McClelland said.

The story isn't easy for him to tell.

"It's certainly not pleasant to think about, and it just doesn't come to my mind," he said.

But the doctor says it's one he feels compelled to share.


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