When I think of gunshot wound, I think of what I might get if I worked at a big city trauma center, not the small town hospital I work for.
"We have a confirmed gunshot wound coming to ER," the ER desk clerk said over the phone. Her voice sounded shaky. "You better get on down here."
I left my paperwork, and found the emergency room was swamped. I looked into our trauma room and saw it had two patients separated by a curtain. It's funny how slow we've been lately and now we have a critical patient coming in and the ER is full.
I could hear the muffled voices over the scanner, but couldn't make out what they were saying over the discordant clamor of voices in the ER. Among those voices was that of the doctor, who was calmly giving orders to discharge some patients in order to make room for the supposed trauma. Even though we don't get this kind of action very often, the crew was mellow as usual.
"So, whatcha guys got going on?" I asked as I leaned up against the counter surrounding the nurses station.
"We're not even sure if we have a patient yet," one of the nurses said nonchalantly. "It actually appears like we have two gunshot wounds."
"Really. Did they shoot each other?"
"No. Actually, they were on separate sides of the county," she said, not acknowledging my feeble attempt at humor.
"You mean we rarely get shootings and now we're gonna get two at the same time." I thought a moment of how I had just sent my co-worker home because it was slow. If we end up working on these patients I might regret that move.
Shortly thereafter the call came in that the rig was only a few minutes away. We quickly geared up with gowns and gloves and made sure our equipment was ready. While we were hoping for the best, we were prepared for the worse.
"We get to wear trauma gowns today, hey," I said, trying to make humor of the situation. In the ten years I had been at Shoreline I think I wore these only one other time, and that was for a chest stabbing years ago. The doctor back then laughed at us because we were all so excited to wear them when we didn't even know what was coming in.
It turned out to be nothing.
"I certainly don't want to risk getting blood all over me," someone said.A young pale, blue man with his shirt ripped open and blood splattered was wheeled in a short time later, and as soon as I saw that the paramedics were performing CPR I was pretty much certain anything we did was going to be for show.
I grabbed the AMBU-bag and took over that job while the rest of the staff moved the back board with patient to the ER bed. While CPR was ceased during this transfer, I saw the bullet hole on the left side of the stermun. The patient was pronounced dead after a few quick checks for a heartbeat and a flat-line confermation."Was it self inflicted?" one of the nurses said.
"That wasn't self inflicted," the doctor said, examining the wound. "He was shot from close range, but it wasn't self inflicted."
"It was murder," another nurse said bluntly. "What we have here is a murder victim."
I said a prayer, and slowly walked from the room. I can't help it but to pray for the people who die in my care. It makes it a lot easier to deal with death when you know the dead are moving on to a better place.
Back at nurses station we discussed the shooting, but nobody had anything further to add. We didn't even have a name. I watched as a lady came in in a rush looking for someone. I could tell right away she knew the victim. The doctor somberly walked up to her. I was glad I didn't have his job. What happened next was not pretty
Once the ER cleared out, and about 20 minutes later, we learned the other shooting was declared as a self-inflicted wound to the head.
"Usually people don't live when they get shot in the head, do they?" a young nurses assistant asked. "You wouldn't think so anyway.""That's not always true," I said. "I remember a time when we had a patient shoot himself in the head, only he missed and ended up sending the bullet through his mouth." The student grimaced. "As I was bagging I could feel the bullet just under the skin at the back of the jaw just under the left ear."
This man who tried to kill himself tonight didn't fail. He was pronounced dead at the scene.Well, that was my excitement for the night. I haven't done a whole heck of a lot since then except for a few breathing treatments.
I imagine if I worked for a larger trauma center I wouldn't waste my time making this entry, but since I work in an peaceful shoreline town where most of what you read about in the front page of the newspaper is about how Grandma made a snowman or about the 2nd grade class making a trip to the pumpkin patch.
And while a shooting like this might make page 6 of the Chicago Tribune, it will make page one of the Shoreline Gazette tomorrow I am sure. I'd much rather read about the 2nd grade class.