Starting my internship at Charity was shocking. The volume and severity of injuries seen each day at Charity was hard to fathom. It was a whole different world.
During my internship I evaluated several young males in the middle of the night in the Accident Room that were gunshot victims. I would ask how they got shot, really something that was hard for me to imagine happening without some serious provocation. Several of these patients had an amazingly similar story. They were minding their own business and then “two dudes in a Grand Prix pulled up and shot me.” I never really believed those guys, but I heard that same story from several different patients. After a few months and hearing about these two dudes several times, I felt obligated to warn my wife. One night at dinner I told her, if you are ever walking down street and see a Grand Prix pulling over, do not hesitate, run for your life. Luckily, she never met up with the two dudes. Those two dudes are responsible for training a lot of doctors in New Orleans.
Many gunshot victims were hospitalized and needed surgery. It was interesting how many men told me they were shot by their wife. When it was finally time to be discharged, I would ask who is picking you up. Most would answer “my wife.” I would ask, “Isn’t that who shot you, are you sure she should be the one picking you up.” They would usually answer “yea she shot me, but I deserved it.” Again, a whole different culture.
Taking call on New Year’s Eve was usually interesting at Charity. At midnight, many residents could be found on the 17th floor. You could step out of a window on to a flat roof, from there you could see the French Quarter and hear the sounds of the New Year celebration and see the fireworks. You could also hear the sound of gun shots. Apparently, many housing project residents would fire their pistols up in the air at midnight. Understanding basic physics, what goes up must come down, these bullets were coming down somewhere. There would always be a handful of unlucky patients shot by the returning bullets, a victim of gravity.
I remember one amazingly unlucky patient that was hit by a returning bullet, which broke his collar bone and punctured his lung. He had a chest tube for a few days for the pneumothorax. He was finally ready for discharge and he asked me, “doc what about the bullet in my head?” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Was he unlucky enough to get hit twice by bullets falling from the sky? What are the odds of that? I checked his scalp and there was a scabbed over wound. He had never complained about it until then. A skull x-ray showed a flattened out bullet on the outer cortex of his skull. There was no fracture. He had a hard head and bullets falling from the sky are not traveling quite as fast as they are when they leave the barrel of the gun. I numbed up his scalp and removed the bullet in his hospital bed before sending him home. I guess he was really an amazingly lucky patient.