As chief of trauma at Eskenazi Health, Dr. Gerardo Gomez sees gunshot victims every day. And while the gore no longer affects him, the attitude here about guns still does.
I got my training in Venezuela, which is where I first saw a gunshot wound. Since then, I’ve dealt with it so often, it’s just part of my life. Before I came here in 1990, I was at Jackson Memorial in Miami. If you think we’re busy here, imagine Miami in the ’80s when the Medellin cartel was moving product through there. Everyone was getting shot.
Usually, shooting victims go to the public hospital, and that’s us. Which is good, because we have more expertise. I saw four gunshot wounds last Saturday. A few minutes before a patient arrives, we get a page from the medics: “22-year-old male, gunshot wound to the abdomen, blood pressure 80, ETA five minutes.” We have very little information, and we have to assess the situation quickly. Each patient is going to be different. Some are quiet when they get here. We had a guy with a shotgun blast to the back recently. He was lucid, but he wouldn’t say a word. Some of them are screaming, kicking, calling me a motherfucker. Some are bleeding to death and unconscious.
A common misconception is that we’re searching for the bullet. We don’t care about the bullet. We’re looking for the damage the bullet caused. The old cowboy movies where the guy pulls the bullet out and the patient is saved? Fiction. We only go after the bullet after the fact, and only if it’s causing pain or infection. Otherwise, it’s staying in you. Stopping the bleeding is the key thing. If there’s a hole in the bowel, yes, we’ll eventually have to fix it. But that’s not going to kill the patient right away.
I hate guns. I was an advocate for the Brady Bill, and I met with [James] Brady’s wife. Everyone told me, “You’re in Indiana now. Forget about gun control. It’s never going to happen.” I’m afraid that’s right.
Indianapolis is coming off one of its deadliest years ever. Under the Gun, from our February 2015 issue, offers a grim look at the violence killing our city.