From Children’s Hospital to Highland Hospital
I returned to the lobby to give everyone an update on how Vinnie was doing and what was going to happen next. He was being transferred to Highland Hospital at 7 am. It all continues to be surreal to me, at this point. Even now, looking back, thinking back, recalling details, and remembering details I had forgotten. Kendra (Vinnie’s then girlfriend, now wife) calling me as I was en route to the hospital asking me for directions; me being unable to articulate something so simple as directions to Children’s Hospital. I remember telling her to call Var, who then went to meet her; which is why he wasn’t there when I initially arrived at the hospital. As I returned to the lobby area, all I could hear was Naomi (Var’s then girlfriend) saying, repeatedly, to the security guard, “Sir, please don’t say anything to him. Sir, please just leave him alone. Sir, please don’t talk to him.” I had no idea why she kept repeating this. I soon found out that the security had not only made assumptions about the circumstances which caused Vinnie to be shot, but had the boldness to voice those assumptions to, of all people, Var, that was BAD IDEA. (For those who don’t know, thus the sarcastic “Sir” and “Ma’am” were born.)
After conveying to the updated information to the approximately 15 people who were still in the lobby area, we all headed for Highland. As I began the short drive to Highland Hospital, I began to think of the phone calls I needed to make. Other than the initial 3 phones calls to Tootie, JeNae and Sister, I called anyone else. My thoughts went immediately to my parents and Pastor Smith, who was not only our Pastor and boss, but had been somewhat a surrogate father to Vinnie from about the age of 10 or so. What words do I say? It is still early so the fact that I am calling this early, on a Saturday, will be alarming. Do I begin with “He’s okay, but Vinnie’s been shot” or do I say, “Vinnie’s been shot, but he’s okay”?
I called my Mom first. I can imagine her looking at the clock, the caller id and immediately knowing something being amiss. “Mom, Vinnie is okay, but he’s been shot. They operated on him at Children’s Hospital and he’s now being transported to Highland. The doctors are saying that no major organs or arteries were hit and barring any unforeseen complications, he should make a full recovery.” Yes, I said it all in one breath but slow enough for her to hear, not only my words, but the calmness in my voice.
The phone was silent. I knew she was processing the shocking and devastating information she just received. I knew she was fighting back tears and willing her voice to not crack when she finally responded. “What do you need me and your Dad to do? Should we come to the hospital?” For anyone who knows my Mom, known to everyone by either “Annie (Auntie) Ree” or “Grammy”, they know that the only thing she loves harder than my brother and I, are her grandchildren.
“The Vin-Man” as she calls him; her first born grandson; the one she was there for his birth; the one who blessed her with her first great-grand, “No Mom, Tootie is here. Let us get him settled here and how about you and Daddy come tomorrow after church? I will call you with any updates, ok?” She agreed and said she would get the Jones Methodist prayer line going.
I called Pastor Smith next. I think in some ways calling him was more difficult than calling my parents. When your relationship with your Pastor goes back to college, when, for so many years, he wasn’t Pastor Smith but Kirk, when you’ve spent countless holidays at Granny’s (his mom) house, when he’s your daughter’s Godfather, when he has his own close, personal relationship with your son, when he thinks of Vinnie as one of his, you aren’t making that phone call as one of his leaders or employees, we’re family.
I said, verbatim, the same thing I said to my Mom. He didn’t hear me. Or, more likely, he thought he couldn’t have heard what he thought he heard. I repeated myself. Then he repeated what I had said, paraphrasing. If the situation wasn’t so serious, our exchange would have been comical. Then the phone was silent. I know my Pastor, he was formulating his plan and rearranging his already jam –packed schedule for the day.
He said, “Kaleb has a game and I will come to the hospital as soon as his game is over”. I tried to tell him that I knew he had a busy schedule and he didn’t have to come. That sentence, I was unable to complete. Pastor Smith cut me off and told me he would be there as soon as he possibly could, he would be praying and to call him if anything changed.
I arrived at Highland, found a park and prayed, for the millionth time, before I got out of the car. As I began the dissent down the hill to the ER entrance, I heard screams. Blood curdling screams. The kind that are only associated with death. When we were at Children’s Hospital, the word was that no one had been able to reach Ron’s mother. His family had convened at Highland. It was that very moment that some family and friends learned the unthinkable, unfathomable news that Ron had died.
Because I didn’t know any of Ron’s family, I didn’t stop and talk to anyone. I made my way to the entrance and was directed to ICU where Vinnie had just arrived and was being hooked up to various monitors and IV’s. As I waited at the nurse’s station to see him, I was able to see a diagram of his wounds. The diagram didn’t coincide with what I had been told at Children’s Hospital. Because of my background in Criminal Justice, I was able to decipher the diagram. I could clearly see there were far more than 6 gunshot wounds. From the diagram that illustrates entrance and exit wounds, it was apparent to me, there had to have been more than one shooter.
I stood there staring, in disbelief, at the illustration of my son’s wounds. I introduced myself to the nurse and asked him to explain the wounds depicted in the illustration. Although I knew, I was hoping I was wrong. The nurse had “received” Vinnie from the medical team who transported him. He had stripped him down to do a complete examination of all the wounds. He explained to me the surgeon’s job, at Children’s, was to repair any internal injuries and stabilize my son. The trauma team at Highland had done a complete assessment of all his injuries.
The words he spoke are forever memorialized in my brain. The nurse informed me that my son had a shattered knee as a result of the shooting. He said that the nature of Vinnie’s wounds indicated 3 different weapons. That, based on his experience as an ER nurse at Highland, it was likely those weapons were an AK47, a 9 millimeter and a Mac 10. He went on to say that Vinnie had survived 17 gunshot wounds. He said he had to admit, in all his years as an ER nurse, he had never seen someone survive this many gunshots, by that many guns, much less without very severe injuries. The nurse said my son was lucky.
I stood there waiting for my brain to process the information which had been inputted. Like Pastor did with me earlier, I heard the nurse’s words but they didn’t compute to anything familiar in my brain. I aasked him to repeat what he said. This time I took it in, processed it and thought about what it meant. When the nurse got to the part where he said Vinnie was lucky, I corrected him, as we would all do many, many times, in the ensuing days, weeks, months and even years, when people attributed his survival, of 17 gunshot wounds, to luck, “No, my son is not lucky, he’s blessed. 17 gunshot wounds with no major arteries or organs hit is not luck, it’s God”.
Next “The Nightmare of the Highland Experience”
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