Guest post: It’s the smell

Originally a comment by Pliny the in Between on Celebrating.

Warning: graphic. Brutally, necessarily, truthfully graphic.

It’s the smell. That’s what forces its way into my thoughts every time there’s another mass shooting. I guess it’s part of the PTSD associated with 25 plus years of trauma surgery trying to undo extremes of violence. It’s left its mark. Iron. Metallic. If you are winning the fight, that’s what you smell. If you’re losing it shifts to an indescribable stench of corruption as cells begin to die and normal organ barriers begin to fail. In the OR you smell death well before the monitors slow and the EKG begins to widen. Still you try. Last night I couldn’t sleep because to this day I can still see the face of my youngest GSW patient, hit in the abdomen by a high velocity slug like those used in Texas. From her diaphragm to her pelvis every organ was shredded. Her liver burst from the supersonic shock wave that followed the bullet. So much blood that you have to throw your socks away. Three trauma surgeons worked on her for hours. It wasn’t enough. I remember the smell.

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