"The Knife and Gun Club" - Part 1

Monday

Circa 1990, I was an ER Nurse at a hospital situated in a (less than) desirable neighborhood of Dallas, Texas across the street from an apartment complex referred to “The Projects” - a government assisted  apartment complex for the very poor where many occupants were armed to the teeth.

Consequently, walk-in or dump-off trauma was commonplace. The ER Team was expert in managing 'penetrating' trauma as Gun Shot Wound's (GSW) and Stab Wounds (SW) were fairly routine.

The majority of our patients originated from The Projects but an additional source of blood and guts was from 'The It'll Do' nightclub located about three blocks away from the ER and notorious for late night stabbings.

The “Knife and Gun Club” would kick off on Thursday nights (payday) around ‘closing time’ (2 am) and continue until Sunday evening. Most of the victims were drunk or stoned, poor and under-educated.  I was told a long time ago that the ‘club’ name began by way of the differentiating members. The weapon of choice and modality of maiming and/or killing were determining factors on whether or not you were a member of the ‘knife club’ or the ‘gun club’. Divided by nationality, American citizens could legally purchase a gun to shoot one another. Undocumented aliens, were unable to legally purchase guns, so knives were the preferred mechanism of assault. Who knows?

It took me years to learn how to create strong boundaries between the patient and myself without losing my sense of compassion for them. After all, many of our ER clients were not the nicest of people.

The secret was to view their reality separately from mine and treat them as I would want my own brother or sister to be treated. It was the healthiest way for me to deal with some of the most horrific people and witness some of the most disfiguring trauma. But it took some time to get there as they don’t teach you this stuff in nursing school.

It was just after midnight on a Friday and “The Knife and Gun Club” was running full tilt. The ‘Bat Phone’ rang and we were told to prepare for an unconscious, hypotensive male with multiple GSW’s to chest and abdomen.

Within minutes, the patient arrived by DFD. An African American male, wearing a African print “doo-rag” and jeans, he was bloody and appeared lifeless. I could tell just by the look of him that he was a gangster.

Knife & Gun Club - Part 2 

ER 101

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