The Crime and Punishment Festival
The newest arrival at the trauma unit of Chicago’s Cook County Hospital managed to reply lucidly to the first few urgent questions posed to her after paramedics wheeled her in one night last July. She was a black woman in her early twenties who had been shot once near her pubis, destroying the femoral artery and vein serving her left leg. As blood pumped from the wound and she headed into shock, each query about her medical history elicited an answer vaguer than the preceding one. “Her lights were on,” remembers Dr. John Fildes, an attending surgeon who was on duty at the time, “but nobody was home.”
Laboring for twelve hours, Fildes mended the damage and succeeded in restoring the blood flow, all the while expecting he would eventually have to amputate below the knee. As his patient recuperated at home, though, he was amazed to find that the only problem caused by the blood deprivation was with her big toe. Blood vessels there had been damaged and the flesh slowly began to darken and die. Months passed. Finally, the woman called Fildes at home during the second weekend of November to register her weariness with tending to her toe. The time had come to amputate, and Fildes arranged to meet her at the hospital.
About the Author
Mark Lasswell is the deputy books editor of the Wall Street Journal.