Tale from “The Pit”

Paramedics brought in a seventeen-year-old youth with a serious self-inflicted laceration to his left forearm. His knife had nicked an artery, not sliced through it. The ends of a severed artery contract and spasm down, reducing blood loss. A nicked artery continues to pump blood through the hole. Our teenaged patient had lost so much blood that he arrived in hemorrhagic shock, despite the paramedics giving him IV fluids and compressing the nicked artery before transport.

We stopped the bleeding, “refilled his tank” with IV fluids and a blood transfusion, and called in a vascular surgeon to repair the artery. All ended well.

The rest of the story: This young man’s older (twenty-ish) girlfriend had just jilted him. He showed up at her apartment, rang the doorbell, and — just as she opened the door — drew the knife across his forearm. Blood spurted from the wound. He held up his arm. “I’m bleeding for you!” She helped him inside, laid him down, and called 911.

Once we got him stabilized in the ED, I had to ask, “Why did you do that?”

He looked at me with wide, grief-stricken eyes. “Doc, you just don’t know what it’s like to love a broad.”