Dr. Shaikh trained under PPGV’s Dr. Mac Whitehouse. This is her story.
April 14 at 10:54 PM ·
With a bottle of hydrogen peroxide I soak a towel and clean the small
little lifeless bloody hand on the gurney. At the intersection of
science and emotion my mind wanders as I clean. I don’t want his
parent’s hand stained with their own child’s blood when they let go. If
they let go. I try not to feel the rush of my emotions hurling at me
like a runaway train. I have to pull it together so I can shortly go
tell the parents of this precious young boy that their child has died.
I clean that hand as gently but as intently as I can to make sure every
last drop of blood is gone. I couldn’t do much else for him; the injury
was devastating and non-survivable. Not one skillset in all my training
and experience could help me to help him live. The bullet traversed his
brain from one side to out the other. No one survives. That is the
science. I felt my eyes well up with tears. The trauma nurse quietly
takes over the cleaning.
It was a trauma nurse who taught me to
clean hands for dead patients. It is a lesson that has stayed with me,
as morbid as that sounds. Similarly, I was taught to cover bodies in a
blanket and wrap the head in gauze after cleaning any head wounds. Then
it will just look like the child is sleeping. Peacefully.
young patient was 4 years old. He hadn’t even had enough time to begin
to live. Through tears his mom shows me a video she had made just a few
hours earlier. Time warps as I travel back to see the life of a young
child with the most beautiful brown eyes and an engaging, innocent
precious smile playing with LEGOS. The moment belies what was to happen
shortly thereafter. Time would pass and once done building LEGOS his
life and my life would intersect in one of the most tragic ways
“I didn’t even know my boys knew we had a gun in the
house” mom tells me through gasping sobs. Her husband stands at her
side- he tries to hold her in comfort. She pulls away. Immediately I
know why. The gun was his. She never wanted it in the house. She never
wanted it at all. I read it all on her face because I have seen this
story over and over again. The people are just different this time. The
gaping emotional heart wrenching impact though is the same.
the middle of the morning. 1030 am. Normally these children would have
been in school. But we are in a global pandemic. Schools are closed.
Usually a safe haven for so many, these learning environments engage the
mind and busy the body. They keep our kids out of trouble – or at the
very least minimize the trouble they can get into. We underestimate how
valuable school truly is.
The conversation falls to silence.
I step away feeling like an intruder on a very personal moment. The
police are waiting for me outside. They need a report. They want to know
injuries. Monotonously I answer their questions as I have similarly
before. They look as shocked as I feel.
“Where did the older child get the gun?” I ask.
They kept a gun in the house, to protect against intruders. A flood of
questions come into my head. Did they not know that the odds of needing
to shoot an intruder are so much less than the odds of a gun accident in
the house? Did they not listen to their pediatrician who asked about
safety locks and lockboxes for gun storage? I don’t ask any of the
questions because in this very moment it won’t change a thing.
The older brother had found the gun box. In the closet. On the top
shelf. Behind shoe boxes. Tucked under old clothes. He had seen Dad put
it away once and also knew where Dad hid the key to open the lock. He
picked up the gun. It was shiny, clean and crisp to touch. Much like he
thought the one in his video game might be. He turned the gun around in
his hand and latched his small finger on the trigger all while his
imagination went wild. He was chasing down the bad guys. There was a gun
fight. He needed to save some innocent people. He was going to shoot
them and be a hero. He aimed it toward the closet door and gently pulled
BAM! A loud sound muffled his hearing for a
moment. The gun recoiled in his hand and knocked him off the step stool
he was standing on. He fell to the ground surprised. He heard someone
running up the stairs. He quickly put the gun down. He stepped outside
at the very same moment his mother and father walked around the corner
to find his younger brother on the carpet…lifeless.
I’ll never be able to look at LEGOS the same way again.
Traumatic injury – such as gun violence – is a nearly 100% preventable
disease. Gun violence is no less now that #stayathome and
#socialdistancing are in effect. In fact when all is said and done,
statistics will likely show an increase during these “shelter at home”
times. Economies are stressed as are lives. Schools which are normally
safe havens for children are closed. Choices made in boredom or under
stress are not always the wisest. If you choose to own a gun please
abide by the following:
1) Store guns safely. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately.
2) Use an approved firearms safety device on the gun such as a trigger lock or cable lock so it cannot be fired.
3) Store it unloaded in a locked approved container (lock box or gun safe).
4) Use both a locking device and separate container for maximum safety.
Choose wisely. Save a life.
Almaas Shaikh MD
Feel free to share.
Disclaimer: Any resemblance real, fictional or in location in the writing of the story is purely coincidental.
#Stayathome #socialdistancing #COVIDChronicles #COVID19 #Traumaprevention
Photo below of LEGO Sydney Opera House built by Kashif Zubair; a build of nearly 3000 pieces requiring pure grit and determination.