Friday, January 04, 2008

revenge


when i wrote about doctor's attitudes there were some who mentioned something about the police. so here is a story about police attitudes.

i was an intern in a rural hospital. one night a young lady was brought in. she had gunshot wounds. but strangely enough, her wounds were symmetrical. on her left arm she had an entrance wound mid forearm posterior aspect, fractured distal ulnar and exit wound distal forearm anterior aspect. on her right arm she had an entrance wound distal forearm anterior aspect, a fractured distal ulnar and an exit wound mid forearm posterior aspect. she was shaken and couldn't tell me what happened. i asked her escort.

her escort was a cop. he was head of the local police station. he explained to me that she was the girlfriend of one of his colleagues. she and her boyfriend had gone for a drive. they had stopped somewhere to...um.....enjoy the scenery. while they were there they were attacked by a gang that worked the area. the boyfriend had been killed on the spot with multiple gunshot wounds. she had taken one shot, through both arms.

when she had relaxed a bit, i asked her what happened. she said they were sitting in the car when all hell broke loose. she screamed and put her fingers in her ears. and was in that position when she got shot. when reconstructing the trajectory i realised the bullet must have passed just in front of her face on its way from the one arm to the other arm. she was lucky, in a sense.

her escort took me aside. he said, "i assure you, doc, we will get the people responsible for this!" i somehow believed him.

about two weeks later we got a call that four critically injured patients were on their way in. all we knew is that they all had gunshot wounds. the ambulances arrived. one patient was declared dead on arrival. three were taken into casualties. one died in casualties. two were taken to theater. one died before they could operate. one got operated, but died on the table.

the police started coming in. surprise surprise, but that same cop who swore revenge was one of them. he told us that they had found out where the 'hideout' of the gang was and had gone there to arrest them. apparently the bad guys had shot first (i love it the way that always happens). even though they had shot first, they had only winged one cop. they, however, were all killed. apparently there were about five dead at the scene. interesting to note that the winged cop specifically asked me to be transfered to another town because he was afraid of a retaliation assassination. i imagined a whole bunch of gun toting gangsters coming into the hospital. i transferred him immediately.

of course i knew that it hadn't been a fair shootout. of course the bad guys didn't shoot first. but in the climate of crime in south africa, i wasn't really too worried about such details.

if the comments some of my latest posts have generated are anything to go by, for those who want to stereotype this to some or other race war, let me just point out that everyone involved, including the surgeon, was black. (ok the anaesthetist was a cuban, but the rest were all black)

14 comments:

Roer said...

Ai dr. B. Ek glo elke woord en dit maak my so hartseer en moedeloos. Dis 'tit for tat' die heel tyd. Is daar dan hoop? (Toemaar, ek verwag nie 'n antwoord nie).

Toni Brayer MD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toni Brayer MD said...

Amazing post and in cases like this I think justice was served.

Bongi said...

roer, ongelukkig is elke woord waar. toemaar, ek raak dikwels ook moedeloos met ons land, maar ek glo sodra mense soos ek en jy bly om darem 'n klein verskil te maak, 'n klein liggie in 'n baie donker plek te wees, is daar hoop. wie weet, moontlik sal jz doen wat hy se^ en misdaad vasvat. ja hy is heel moontlik korrup maar is dit nie standaard vir afrika nie. ek hoop nog en ek hoop jy sal ook.

toni, you may be right, but it does bother me that you may be wrong. if the stories of that day are to be believed, 9 people lost their lives. were they all deserving of such terminal justice? surely not all of them. i still prefer the rule of law than a type of brutal retributive justice. i always thought it significant that the one cop whom we admitted with a minor gunshot wound that day felt scared enough of retaliation that he wanted to be somewhere else. did he feel retaliation was justified? did he feel guilty? i thought so at the time.
but having said all this, i don't usually shed too many tears when one of the many criminals copps it.

Kim said...

South Africa? I can see this happening here in California! Race is no factor in gang violence around here - it's an equal opportunity employer! : 0

Buckeye Surgeon said...

Vigilantism always makes me a little nervous. Sometimes, it's the only way for justice to be served, but it also reflects a lawlessness and disregard for civil authority that one unfortunately will find in developing countries. Good story though.

Barbara K. said...

I think it takes courage to write about an experience like this. Thank you

Dizzy Dee said...

Ek neem aan dat mens maar met sulke goed moet vrede maak as jy in so 'n tiepe werk is. Maar. Ek moet bieg. As so iets gebeur met die mense vir wie ek lief is sal ek ook baie graag wil revenge he. Mens weet dit is nie reg nie, maar op 'n lelike manier laat dit mens beter voel...

rlbates said...

I wish I could read Afrikan. I'm sure those comments are very telling. Wish no one had to experience revenge, but it seems to be a part of life (on one scale or another) everywhere.

Bongi said...

dizzy, ek verstaan. moontlik is dit deel van mense wees?? moontlik is een van die comments van 'n vorige pos waar en ons suid afrikaaners is geneig om so te dink. al wat ek kan se^ is dat ek verstaan.

rl, i don't like revenge, but i understand it.

Alison Cummins said...

RL,
Alternatively you can take a Dutch lover. That's what I did, and it's pretty helpful on this blog.

mare said...

Maar of jullie alsjeblieft niet teveel moeilijke woorden gebruiken, want dan kan ik het niet meer vertalen en dan gelooft Alison niet meer dat ik Afrikaans begrijp.

Groeten uit Montreal, Canada.

Bongi said...

alison, wel dit lyk vir my ek kan mare verstaan, maar volgens my maak hy baie spel voute. hy sal hierdie natuurlik vir jou vertaal, so hy kan se^ net wat hy wil. hoe sal jy weet hy vertel die waarheid. mare, moenie stout wees nie.

mare said...

Ek sallie nie stout wees nie.