"I'm going to die!!! Help me! I'm going to die!"
We heard this before we saw the person screaming these fateful words.
Those are dreaded words in the emergency room. You see, somehow, and I have never understood how and probably won't until I am the one making that proclamation, a person knows when they are about to die. Now I'm not talking about the "yea I have brain cancer and my doc says I have 3 months" I'm about to die but rather the "There's an elephant on my chest and I can't breathe" I'm about to die. They know...
So this guy, late 20's, staggers through the ER doors Saturday night holding his hand to his right neck. One look at the guy and you knew he was in some serious trouble.
He had the look of a battle-worn street soldier. Wife-beater, sagged hip-hop-inspired black jeans, black nylon do-rag, Timberland boots... And tats everywhere, including a couple of teardrops on his face.
But I didn't notice the tats, nor the clothes, until later. All I saw was blood.
He staggers in and flails himself across the triage desk. He is holding his right hand to his neck, trying ineffectively to keep the blood from pulsing out of his body.
Blood is everywhere. His clothes are saturated and dripping. Bloody boot-prints, blood squirting onto the floor and desk and our registration clerk...
The triage nurse called for help, and we got him on a stretcher and pushed him into a resuscitation room to save his life.
He was screaming when he walked in, but he's now just a whimper of a man as the nurses start to cut off his clothes. I do a quick inspection and note that he's been shot in the right neck, no apparent exit wound. His pulse is thready and his blood pressure is dangerously low.
I intubate him rapidly and then place a large-bore IV into a central vein to begin giving him blood. A tech holds pressure on the wound to control the massive hemorrhage. His blood pressure rises to safer levels...
The trauma surgeon arrives and takes him to the operating room. Total time in the ER - 13 minutes!
Almost 3 hours of surgery later, the man is alive and the damage is controlled. He'll be on the ventilator for several days until the swelling is no longer a threat to his airway. But he'll live...
In Birmingham the violent crimes have been increasing over the last several years. The homicide rate is trending up, reversing several years of decline. Noone knows why. I don't pretend to know why.
But I've seen way too many kids and young people and innocent people fall victim to this increasing violence. I've seen 12 and 14 year old girls riding in the backseat of a car get shot and killed while their mom pumped gas. I've seen a 2 year old kid get shot and killed while sleeping in her bed. Just recently I pronounced dead an 18 year old girl, 9 months pregnant, who was stabbed to death by her baby daddy's ex-girlfriend.
It's tragic. And there's no easy solution. Take away guns, but they don't disappear. Lock more people up, but there always are others to take their place.
Respect. Treating others as you would be treated. Realization that it's a big world, and you are such a minor player. Somehow the solutions have to lie somewhere in these concepts. But how? How do you get people to think before they act? To respect?
I don't have the answers... I wish I did.
I'm tired of hearing healthy young kids tell me they are about to die...