Friday, August 6, 2010

- Ventilated

I step under the yellow police tape. The young man is lying there, bleeding, on a pile of towels the people who's threshold he had fallen across had grabbed from under a sink. The towel givers are all in the same room as him, but pressed up against the walls, present for the action and at the same time wanting to be as far away as possible. He is lying on his left side looking face to face with Snoopy. Woodstock, farther down the towel, is turning an ugly orange as blood seeps from the gunshot wound to the young man's chest.

He had tried to break into a home several blocks over from where we are standing (or laying, in his case). The old man in the house had already been robbed twice this month. As our hoodlum slid open a window the old man, sleeping on the floor, silently rose up. He fired at the shape as soon as a clear silhouette presented itself.

The .38 hits about two inches of the midclavicular line at the 3rd intracostal space. The young man sprints across two yards, jumping fences, before I imagine the fact that he had been shot made itself present to him. He crossed over another a fence and limped, then crawled to a door - I can see the drag marks and impressions in soft earth where he went to his knees. The residents opened the door, fetched their old and ragged washcloths.

He looks up at me feebly as I step over him, assessing the damage. The slug went all the way through, a slightly larger exit wound out of his scapula. His hands are cuffed behind his back. I give him the once over as I place a collar. He has no other injuries. As we load him up in the back, a large, bloody bubble pops from hole in his chest. In the good light I can now see the bullet has almost perfectly bulls eyed a large cross tattoo the young man has on his chest.

His pressure is 100/60, but his heart rate is relatively steady at 100 and he is breathing with only a slight extra amount of effort.. As my partner affixes an oxygen mask and opens the tank, I slap dressings on. We are only 6 minutes away from the hospital. His left lung sounds about a third full. This kid needs a chest tube. I quickly call the state response network and the hospital and sink a large bore IV. It's all I have time to do - we are only 16 minutes from going on scene to transfer to a trauma bed. The doctors remove my dressing, now soaked, and another large ruby bubble pops out of the hole on the chest.

They stick in the chest tube with barely any warning. A torrent of blood splaches onto the floor and the doctor steps away, cursing. In his haste to insert the tube he neglected to wear shoe covers. The young man yelps. Eventually they sedate him and in short order intubate and ship him up to surgery.

I walk out of the room and throw my bloody gloves in biohazard on my way out.

In the unit the young man, a boy really, weakly asked me:

"Am I gonna be OK?"

"Yes," I tell him. "Don't worry. You're going to be fine."

I read his obituary three days later.