Monday, May 2, 2011

things that break us

slow steps up to the out-of-the way call room.  i will my pager to stop beeping so i can get at least three hours of sleep before morning rounds.  

danskos slide off my feet as i pull the blanket i stole from 3 West over my tired body.  out the window, i hear a siren.  it is brief, a quick cry, as if its operator isn't sure if the situation is an emergency or not.  my heart sinks, knowing what is next.  pager rings.  

feet slide back into danskos while i walk back down the stairwell.  i enter the code to enter the emergency room, and stumble into the trauma bay.  

beautiful athlete lies on the table.  a small hole in his chest, ringed with a black burn that can only be caused by a bullet.  the trauma protocol has already started as i pull plastic booties up to my knees.  i know the blood will flow soon enough.  

everything happens quickly.  a scalpel. a saw.  soon beautiful athlete's ribs are detached from his body.  blood pours onto the floor as skilled hands search for the source of the bleeding.  a hole in the heart.  staples quickly close the hole but the life blood of beautiful athlete is on the floor and no staple can reverse that.  a defeated trauma team calls time of death for beautiful athlete.  

a large needle is placed in my hand.  med student, sew him back together.  a baseball stitch will do.  impatient nurses hurry me along as i imprecisely reattach ribs to belly.  the skin under my stitches will never heal.  i stitch simply so his family can see him reassembled. 

a final knot is tied.  again i trudge back to the call room, again i will the pager on my waist to silence.  inside an open door i see beautiful athlete's family listening as trauma surgeon tells them the news.  i feel petty for craving sleep while beautiful athlete's mother grieves the short life of her 22-year old son. 

local newspapers never give details of the shooting.  simply name and age of beautiful athlete, and the cross-street where he took his last breath.  

at home the next morning, despite the overwhelming exhaustion, sleep will not come.  over and over i see my stitches, running like a baseball, across beautiful athlete's chest.  i wonder what hope looks like in the face of street violence. a fatigued grasping for meaning, i google some variant of hope, street violence. the first hit brings up words written by paul two millenia ago: i am convinced that neither death nor life...can separate us from the love of God.  my eyes flood with tears.  i hope desperately that this is true.  

in the retelling, a friend offers words of comfort. maybe your stitches were part of the redemption of the world.  maybe, if we believe our bodies are raised someday, it is your stitches that made him ready for that day. 

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