The Difference a Year Makes

In the days before the transit system had their own police force our squad was assigned to a detail on part of the Skytrain route. We rode the train, checked trouble makers and provided a physical presence at the stations where there had been recent problems.

At one station we struck up conversation with a young man.  He asked us if we recognized him, and even though he looked vaguely familiar none of us could place him. That’s when he reached up, placed the tip of his index finger squarely on his left eyeball and jiggled the white orb around in his head.

“I’m the guy who was shot in the head last year and made it.  Like it?” he asked, removing his finger from his glass eye and pointing to the faint scar running back into his hairline along his left temple.  

We all stared with some amazement at the walking, talking human in front of us who had suffered what should have been a fatal injury. 

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Shots fired.

We get several calls a week from people reporting gun fire. When there are multiple 911 call the incident is usually legitimate. When there is only one caller reporting ‘shots fired’, the culprit is often a group of kids with fire crackers or an ill-kept car letting loose with a cannon-volley of back fires and not in fact a running gun battle.

Then there are the times when all this rationalization flies right out the window, and a single call in to 911 turns the night on its head.

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“CD to all units.  There is a report of shots fired in the area of XXX Street and XXXX Avenue.  There is one caller who says the shots were fired from the south lane.  The caller is not familiar with gunfire.”

Multiple police responded to the area and the dark night time streets around the caller’s house were searched for victims and for clues.  Nothing was found.  No victims, no bullet casings, no blood, nothing.

Then, a short time later, another call.

“A woman is calling from XXXX Avenue.  There is a man on her front lawn asking for help.  He is covered in blood and appears to be injured.  The caller is afraid to go outside.”

With that information we turned our attention to the address only two blocks from where we had been searching. 

The man was walking down the sidewalk with stilted legs, his arms held stiff out to his sides.  One eye peered out from the ruined mess of his face and his entire body was drenched in blood as if a bucket of pigs blood had been dumped on his head Carrie-style.  When we got to him the man plunked onto his bum on the sidewalk, clearly relieved some form of help had arrived. 

There was a swollen, bleeding, pulsing mess where his left half of his face should have been, and a deep trench dug its way back through his temple and out of the side of his head.  I had never seen anything quite like it on a person who was still alive.

In typical cop style, the officer standing behind the man snapped on a pair of latex gloves.

“Now THAT’s going to need a little pressure,” this officer said and gently placed his hands on either side of the mans head, trying to contain the flow of blood and hopefully keep the mans brain matter from spilling out onto the street.

————

I accompanied the man in the ambulance when paramedics whisked him away, and I managed to stay out of the way of medical staff when we finally reached the hospital.  The Trauma room was filled with doctors and I tagged along everywhere the injured man went.  When he was taken to the MRI/Scan room (I’m not sure of the exact procedure he underwent), the doctor called me over to take a look at the computer screen.

There, in black and white, was an image of the inside of the man’s head.  There was a blow-out of white bone fragments where his left orbital socket should have been and what so surprised medical staff was the lack of intrusion into the man’s skull cavity.  It appeared the bullet had only taken the man’s left eye when it tore a path through his head.

The resiliency of the human body is something that never ceases to amaze and impress me, as was reinforced a year later when we saw this man on the skytrain platform.  Unless you were looking for it, you would not realise the man had a glass eye and metal plates holding half of his face together.

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3 Responses to "The Difference a Year Makes"

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