Monday, April 25, 2005

How Can You Tell?

When I got him, he was still pretty messed up. Chest tubes, paraplegic, tracheotomy, and a decubitus ulcer on his butt that was covered by a dressing as big as Tom Delay's face, of which it seemed to remind me. But he was a really nice guy, soft-spoken and polite, and the family members I met were good citizens all. So, the initial story I heard about him didn't ring true to me.

At first I was handed some tale about a home-invasion robbery in which he took a bullet in the back. "Serves him right," some staffers said, going along with the notion that the frightened homeowner was of course justified in blasting this guy into a wheelchair for life.

Then another person, a staff supervisor who I trust implicitly, said that was not the case. Instead, the patient was outside the scene when struck by the bullet. Like an innocent bystander, tragically and randomly cut down by urban violence.

That story fit better with the patient's personality, from what I saw in him.

I never asked him. I did not feel that it was helpful, at that stage of his recovery, to discuss it. He's got the rest of his life to sort it out. I only had the few minutes that my work allows me to spend with each patient, so in that small amount of time, I did what I always do. I cared. We got him looking good for a visit from his children. He had not seen them in a month, due to his intense hospitalization.

Later when he left the hospital, I went to say good-bye and he remembered me by name, though I only worked with him for a few hours. I discussed these two stories with the discharging nurse, and she turned it back around again.

She spent a lot more time on him than I did, so I do not distrust her version, which placed him in the home as something of an accomplice to someone else who instigated the robbery. That still makes him an alleged felon, in a Roshomon kind of way.

It is even presumed that eventually he will be charged. Perhaps when he gets out of rehabilitation.

I would not want that. Paraplegia has a way of reforming even the most violent among us, and he didn't seem to be one of them, anyway.

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