01 September 2006

You Think You've Got Problems?

Life wasn't fun anymore.
She was heavy....... built sorta like Roseanne Barr when she was at her heaviest. She had the beautiful coffee and cream complexion that comes with having one parent who is black, one who is white.
Unless the case makes the local news, we won't get details on our patient's life..... we only get the facts pertaining to what caused their injuries.
For whatever reason, after consuming an unknown quantity of alcohol, she decided the "permanent solution to a temporary problem" was the answer to her difficulties.

Her tool of choice was a .357 Magnum. It's a very powerful piece, more than capable of doing the job. She was serious.
She positioned the barrel beneath her chin, trigger away from her body, took a deep breath, and jerked the trigger downward.

The phone rang at 3 A.M. for us to launch on a "scene" flight.......
a 24 year old female with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Her vital signs were stable, but EMS personnel on the scene were having trouble establishing an airway.

Airborne, I saw a multitude of emergency flashing lights from 15 miles away, then landed between the pine trees in the lawn of a duplex....... probably a rental property. A fairly large crowd...... Neighbors, some in pajamas, had gathered to watch the activity. My crew went into the house knowing they needed to get a secure airway established quickly.

When they came out with the patient I was taken aback.
A big portion of the lower half of her face was gone.......
If you have seen an animal on the road that has been hit on part of it's body, so that the tissue on the part that is under the wheels explodes outward...... that's what her lower face looked like. Pulling the trigger on the revolver, she had redirected the barrel so that it blew off her chin, mouth, and nose in a pie-shaped, triangular wound. The flesh immediately alongside the wound was torn in shreds that looked kinda like the flaps over the mouth of the movie monster "Predator". The sides of her face and everything above the cheekbones looked normal. My crew had somehow navigated their way in this mass of torn flesh to find her windpipe and establish a safe airway for her.

Still under the influence and in a state of shock, she tried to talk to my crew. With no tongue, palate, teeth, or lips, the words she couldn't form were heartbreaking. Her eyes told the story-
Frantic. Confused. Pleading.

We got her safely to the trauma center. With the airway established, her injury was not life threatening. I think of her often when I hear about a suicide or attempted suicide.

I don't know what happened to her.
Her recovery would be a years-long affair, both physical and mental.
Rebuilding her face would take many, many surgeries, and would require the skills of a real artist.

And the mental part........
I constantly wonder. If she was so unhappy with her life that she wanted to end it before, what about now? Under the best of circumstances her face will attract the attention of the curious, making her feel like a freak.
If she was depressed before, how can she possibly make her way through life with a face so mutilated?

I know, I've said it before........
and if you continue reading here you'll hear it again and again:
Life comes with problems and problem solving.
Sometimes we are so self-centered, we begin to think our problems are insurmountable. In this job, I'm continually reminded how blessed I am, and how small my problems truly are.
I am grateful for that reminder, and glad to have a job where I may be a cog in helping someone resolve their problems.

4 comments:

Mommanurse said...

I will add my "I've said it before...." here. Dying is the easy part, it is all the stuff before, and after, if you don't succeed in dying, that is tough.

E said...

This is a truly humbling industry we're in. Well written.

Flightfire said...

I've heard this plot before. It's a book written by Chuck Palahniuk called "Invisible Monsters." Not really, but the similarities are spooky. Not a bad read, kinda screwed up.

btw, really enjoy your blog even if I don't agree with some of your political rants. Keep it up. And now I'm not a lurker.

Greybeard said...

Thank you FF.
If you know what is going on not just in U.S. politics, but around the world, it's hard not to be "enthusiastic" about political matters.

As Doctor Phil likes to say,
"How's that workin' for ya?"
As in WWII, for too long we've watched the world slip farther and farther into trouble.
I'm hopin' the cure doesn't kill the patient.

Again, thanks for leaving your "lurker" status behind!