Thursday, July 12, 2007

treachery against life

Last night was as busy and hectic as ever. The first several hours of the shift was spent assembly-line style, going from bed to bed clearing patients off backboards, getting labs started, cutting clothes, "does this hurt where I'm pushing." As soon as we had finished the quick routine with one patient, here comes another one. We counted ourselves extremely fortunate when we got patients one at a time. Usually it's at least three and up. Oh, and there's the red phone, it's ringing; what a surprise.

Air Evac is on the line, giving us a heads-up on the patient coming in. 89-year old man, beat with a baseball bat. Not one of us were ready for that kind of report. At five minutes out, one of the nurses grabbed a tank of O2 and I pushed the stretcher into the elevator and we went up to level 4. After retrieving our patient, the air medics gave us the horriffic report. This man was found on the floor of an un-air-conditioned closet, hands behind his back, bound with electrical wire. His feet were bound too. His core body temperature was 102.9, his body screamed of dehydration. As if this torture wasn't heinous enough, his captors used his head as a baseball and pummled him with a bat. PD was called to his house after his neighbors hadn't seen him for at least two days and when there was no answer at his door. Just imagine the look of shock on the faces of those unsuspecting officers.

Once in the ED, we began our routine but all faces somber. Mine was appalled, actually. This poor man's hands looked as if he were wearing boxing gloves; they had just about tripled in size, horriffic shades of red and purple, skin peeling away, raw fingers.The lack of circulation caused pockets of fluid to form just under the bits of skin that was actually still intact, and any slight movement would cause those pockets to set free their fluid and trickle down the fleshy hands, I can imagine, stinging all the way. His wrists were brutally indented with the outline of the wire used to strangle them, purple, necrosis setting in. Amazingly he still had radial pulses, but his feet weren't so fortunate. The surgery team couldn't find pedal pulses, not even with the doppler. And we know what no pulses mean. His body was so depleted of fluids that his skin would readily pull away from his chest, arms, anywhere with skin. His lips were cracked like old pavement, his tounge utterly dry, mouth caked with dried blood.
His face and head were riddled with lacerations, one specific gaping slice on the top of his bald head. The cuts on his face were covered in debris - the dust and dirt from the closet floor. It's a rare event for a trauma surgeon to let a look of shock creep across his face, but this was one of those rare times. Each one of our expressions were mixtures of disgust for the person who did this, and heartache for this sweet old man.

This man was the embodiement of inhumanity. Human cruelty at its deepest barbarity. One
would have to be a cold-hearted sadist to even do this to a dog; how much blacker a soul to inflict this treachery against life on a fellow human being. When we asked if he knew who did this to him, he remained quiet, though one look in his eyes said that he knew. Not once did this man mention the pain he was in, not once did he complain. As he lay there on the stretcher, surgeons trying to decide what course of action to take, he would ask us how we were, were we having a good night. The only thing that came close to an outward sign of discomfort was when he sweetly, respectfully asked, "Could I get a little water. My mouth is dry."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had read about this poor man in the paper, but your touching story of the misery he suffered brings tears to my eyes.
Thanks for being there.

7:58 PM  

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