The page came mid-morning. The day had promised to be another busy one at the continuity clinic in our large inner-city hospital, located in an area with one of the highest concentrations of poverty of all large US cities. Glancing down at my pager, I saw the incoming message: 5414. PICU. For a general pediatrician, these four numbers are usually ominous. I dialed the extension. “One of your patients is in the PICU,” the resident said apprehensively. “He was shot.”
My mind immediately raced back to an otherwise forgettable local section of this morning's newspaper: “Thirteen year old black male shot in the head in the back of a car, taken to local hospital.” Only two more sentences with minor details followed. In a city that registers well above 300 to 400 homicides yearly, with almost half of the victims younger than 24 years, and 94% of these young homicides by handguns,1 stories like these are not unusual. But his age did stand out in my mind: Only 6 months older than my oldest child, I thought to myself. “He's in bed 7,” the resident informed me. “His mother wanted you to know.”
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