County General on Saturday Night

I put down her chart. He was right. A bullet through the abdomen wasn’t the worst case. It was nothing. Something that would wait till morning. There were people who were worse, people who had been run over by cars or stabbed in gang fights, people with multiple gunshot wounds, people who wouldn’t survive if they didn’t get immediate attention. And this was the judgment residents had to develop in a MASH unit like this.

As we walked away, he said, “You’ll get used to it. You’ll learn to do it.”

I thought, No, I won’t.

I was wrong. I very quickly saw more than I ever imagined, and came to realize that doctors are basically biological repairmen, especially in inner-city hospitals on violence-riddled Saturday nights. On my first night at County General, I treated a guy with a penis the size of a football. It turned out he’d been shot in the ass, and the bullet had exited through his penis. After a few Saturdays, though, I learned that two things could be predicted with 100 percent accuracy: If you asked anyone with a knife wound what happened, they’d say, “I don’t know.” And if a person had something stuck up their butt—which in my experience included lightbulbs, broomsticks, and grapefruits—they’d explain, “It was an accident. I sat on it.”

Pinsky, Drew. Cracked: Life on the Edge in a Rehab Clinic