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The Devil Made Me Do It!

You just don't expect a call like this in the middle of a weekday. I know the full-moon theory of wacky behavior has been statistically debunked. But still, you expect something like this to happen at least after the end of the workday, or on the weekend. But then again, expecting the unexpected is what we're supposed to do now and then.

The dispatch was to a residential street off Middle Avenue -- reports of a stabbing, or stabbings. We were called in after the cops had secured the scene, but when we pulled up to the curb in front of the ranch house on a street of ranch houses just like it, all packed tightly together, the scene appeared anything but secured. It looked more like the set of a horror movie than suburbia.

I got out of the passenger side of the squad and grabbed the jump kit. When I came back around the front of the unit, the first thing I saw was a cop carrying a little kid, maybe two years old, covered in blood. He was screaming. I tried to stop the cop to check the kid out, but he pushed passed me and got into the passenger seat of a squad car, which immediately took off lights and sirens to the hospital.

A large picture window at the front of the house was shattered, and there were glass shards all over the front yard. A young woman was yelling something about the devil as she was being restrained by several officers. Her hands, arms and the front of her clothing were blood-spattered. Several people were splayed out on the lawn. The guy who looked the worst was leaning up against a chain link fence. He was holding his chest, and blood was oozing through his fingers. He was pale, alert and oriented, and he was having trouble breathing. Two more squads arrived and took care of the other folks, so he was ours.

As we were assessing him he told us he was a neighbor to a lady who had gone nuts, yelling that the devil was in her children and that she had to get him out. When he tried to intervene, she stabbed him in the chest -- my first sucking chest wound. We did the IV-and-O2-monitor thing and the three-sided bandage thing. It was also the first time I actually got to open that foil-wrapped Vaseline gauze that sits for years crumpled in the bottom of the trauma kit until the package gets cracked and it dries out. This time, it was actually still goopy.

Our patient remained alert and oriented throughout the short ride to the hospital, and he ended up doing well. Other than hitting a lung, Exorcism-by-Knife Mama managed to miss other vital organs. We spent a couple of hours in the emergency department (ED) helping the overwhelmed staff deal with the mess of patients. While I was working getting my guy situated in one cubicle, I could hear E-b-K Mama ranting and raving about how happy she was now that she had gotten rid of the devil that had possessed her kids.

Luckily, she had managed to miss any vital organs when she stabbed them as well. Unluckily, they would have to live with the memory of being stabbed by their own mother. I wonder how things turned out for everybody. Now that I serve as a deputy prosecutor, I see many of the folks I used to treat in the field in another setting, as defendants. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see some of the players in that drama pass through my current bailiwick. "Cycle of violence" isn't just a cliché. More often than not, it's a reality. And untreated or under-treated mental illness compels much of the repeat business that keeps us medics, ED docs, cops, prosecutors and judges in business.


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