I’m a social worker and I’ve been covering the ER at Cook County Hospital, the 3 to 11 shift, for about a month.

The amount of people who come in with GSW, that’s short for gun shot wound, is astonishing. They’re almost exclusively young, black men. One patient had 8 bullets shot into his legs, calves, and feet. A 14-year-old on the pediatric unit I assessed had been shot in the leg. I read in his chart that he had been shot in the other leg 5 months ago. That’s what we call a “2-fer,” or double trouble.  Last night a 16 year old that was shot in the chest was admitted.  The bullet was still lodged inside. I introduced myself to him and his family. One relative said to me, “Those mutha fuckas’ shot my nephew.”      

Around 8pm I got a page from a clerk in trauma. She said a 21-year-old man had come into the ER by ambulance. He was in a motorcycle accident and had a massive, life-threatening head injury. They checked his wallet but only found an address, no phone number. He lived in Cicero and she asked me to call the police in the town and ask them to go to the patent’s house to inform his family of what happened. I called the Cicero police and they agreed to go. 5 minutes later she called me back and said the family was in the ER talking with the doctor. I put a note into the chart and I read one by the neurosurgeon. They had scanned the patient’s brain and  pressure was building up quickly, so he would have to have a craniotomy. A couple minutes later I was back in the trauma area when the family came in. The women were crying, the men were stoic but stunned into disbelief. They were asking questions, would he be okay, would he wake up? And I thought – what they couldn’t know now was the minute their son’s cranium hit the asphalt his life was forever changed. He will never, ever be the same again. His brain was swelling, destroying itself and taking down memory, language, the ability to feel true emotion, achieve an erection, drink a beer, live independently. If he was lucky and a mircle of science was available that night, his brain might recover enough so that he could live a semblance of a normal life with minimal disability.  He might live to say, “I’m never getting on a “crotch rocket” again.”    

The only thing that was getting me through this night was the thought of the pomegranate martini with fresh mint that I was going to shake and sip when I got home…