Yesterday we were sitting around the doctors station make sweeping generalizations about the shooting victims and assaults that come into the ED:
“I’m telling you, every guy who comes in here shot, he was sitting on his own front porch, minding his own business when it happened,”
“And every guy who comes in here after getting assaulted, was on his way to church when it happened”
We had a laugh at that, because it honestly feels like every guy says this, but now I finally have an idea why they might. Today, we had the pleasure of having one of our former GSW patients come in and talk to us during conference. And I can’t tell you how glad I was that he did because quite frankly, I had NO idea things were this bad, or what these guys are going through out there.
“You get chased and hunt down til’ you fall”
He was shot 3 times, his buddy seven. Both survived. But what got me more than the recounting of the shooting, was his every day life. Constantly, every single day, living in a state of hyper awareness, always looking over your shoulder for somebody trying to cut you down, because you slighted him, dissed his girl, whatever. You know they are coming for you sooner or later. Maybe that car rolling up, the door suddenly opening, everyone and anyone can be a threat. I commend the HBO series the Wire for doing good job of portraying the underlying systems plaguing these communities on a macroscopic level, but I had no idea it was this bad on a personal level. How could we expect anyone to actually survive growing up like this intact? Mentally or physically
“How am I supposed to imagine my life in 40 years?”
The thing is though, he didn’t care if he died. It was just accepted. That is, he didn’t care until he got out. This young man got help, the violence intervention that works through our ED got a hold of him and worked with him to turn his life around. But in a way, it’s almost worse now, because for the first time there is light at the end of the tunnel, he cares about living, but he still spends every day in fear, thinking they are coming for him, and they very well are. He has reason to fear too. His uncle was shot 17 times, and made it to the ED alive where they stabilized him. But he was later found in the bathroom of his hospital room, shot another 17 times. But the killers didn’t drag him into the bathroom to execute him out of sight, he was hiding in there, because he knew they were looking for him.
So, my eyes were widened today. I now have a better understanding why a victim of a shooting might not want to give us his home address, or his phone number, or doesn’t want anyone to know he is here. There ARE times when a victim is brought in and there ARE scary looking people hanging around the ambulance doors, trying to get a look into the trauma bays. Looking to see if he survived because they are friends, or looking to see if he died so they know the job is done.