Friday, January 04, 2008
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)