Tincture Of Time
Despite his appearance, my patient claimed he was a good boy with no disciplinary problems — no gang affiliation, nothing.
That’s why he was so shocked when somebody shot him.
The young man was just 20 years old and a product of his environment – inner-city LA. He was obese and had shaved his head, and probably could be cast on any of the cop shows on TV as a suspect in the case of the week.
Yet he could think of no reason why he got shot.
He remembers standing in front of his house with his mother, when he heard a loud sound and fell into her arms, and cried out her name. “Like a little kid,” he said. That was the last thing he remembered. The gun shot entered the right side of his abdomen and came out on the left. Nobody had ever identified the assailant or the reason for the shooting. It had been a very septic wound resulting in about 16 hours in the operating room of a major university medical center. The damage required a colostomy, since reconnected but not, he said, working terribly well.
About another month of immobility in the hospital waiting for a septic wound to heal from the inside out. Another month at home with suction machines. He could not leave the house. He still can’t do sports, but he never was too good at them. He showed me his “brace” under his over-sized T-shirt, like an elastic total-body girdle.
And, of course, pain — and lots of it. It had now been over six months since this had happened, and he had incapacitating panic attacks every time he tried to leave the house. He said he could physically leave the house, but mentally, he was convinced he could not. That meant, of course, that he could not. He wanted to know “Why me?” — the only question I could never answer. Sometimes, with an older person they have a philosophy, gain a view of the world you can wedge their thoughts into for a little consistency, a little peace. He did not have the maturity to think like this. “Tincture of time?” Even if he did receive the coveted psychiatric benefits he was seeking, resources are so few it is unlikely anyone would ever have the time or resources to help him. I never would know if his “there was no reason for it to be me” was real or all a lie. Its truth would be believable, for this is reality of life in Los Angeles that has gripped my soul. If there be a reasonable purpose for violence, there is at least something to focus on and to fight. Where the purpose is unknown, there can be no real focus for the fight.
Such is the daily life in certain parts of the world. And it is heart-breaking to hear one so young say, “I’ll never be the same. It changed me forever.”
Some say “Time Heals All Wounds.”
In the case of deep psychic injuries medical science can do little but support the victim and try to make him feel better. The only medicine in such cases is “Tincture of time.”