The call is for a GSW. The address is familiar. I did another gun shot there many years ago. When we pulled in that night, everyone was running out the doors, while we ran in. The D.J. was on the ground, shot in the chest. He’d spun his last disc.
But this time it’s different. It isn’t night, it’s a Sunday morning, and people aren’t running out, they are standing up singing. It’s isn’t a nightclub anymore, it’s a church.
“He’s shot in the head and he won’t go to the hospital,” a church member tells me, as he leads us through the church and the singing congregation. “He’s up here,” he says pointing to a room off the main church floor.
I am thinking, this I have to see. I am expecting to walk into a horror movie and see a zombie hulk smoking a cigarette with half his head missing and brain and blood covering his shirt.
There is a crowd of concerned churchgoers gathered around the victim, blocking my view. They are all pleading with him to go to the hospital. I have to fight my way through and then I finally see him. He is a young man in his early twenties with a thrift shop Sunday suit and tie, wearing red Chuck Taylors and a New York Yankees baseball cap. In his hands, he clutches a Bible. He doesn’t appear to be shot at all.
“Show the man! Show the medic! He shot smack dab in the head!” a man says.
I ask the victim to remove his hat so I can examine him. There across his forehead is a band-aid with a small amount of blood stain in the middle. I remove the band-aid. There is no bullet hole there, just a lac.
“You’re not shot,” I say.
“Point Blank he shot me,” the young man says.
“You’re not shot.”
“The Lord and I know what I am and what I am not.”
“Why don’t you tell me happened?”
“Early this morning — around two o clock — I was walking down this very street. A man approached me from behind, grabbed me, took my cell phone and my money, then he had me get down on my knees and he showed me his gun, and I said please don’t shoot me. He said sorry, but he had too — he had orders to shoot me. The man held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger…:
“And Jesus took the bullet! Praise Be!”
“He may have hit you with the gun, but you are not shot. There isn’t even a powder burn.”
“Don’t tell me what I know. I prayed to Jesus and said, please don’t let him shoot me. Please! It was two o’clock this morning, right outside this church. Please! I prayed. The man pulled the trigger and then Jesus! Praise Be! – took the bullet! It’s a miracle! I’m a living miracle, testament to our savior, testament to this holy place. That’s why I come to this church today.”
“You got to go to the hospital and let them check you,” a woman in a fine Sunday hat says. “You could still have a bullet in your brain. Let them check you.”
“He told the sister here the story this morning so we had to call you.”
“Brother, brother, you gotta go with these paramedics here. They going to take good care of you. We all praying for you, but you gotta be seen.”
“The praying already be done. The Lord protected me and and I’m fine. Jesus already done the checking. They ain’t no bullet in my head anymore. Jesus have that bullet now. Praise Be! This here where I belong right now. This the safe place for me. This is my sanctuary. Praise be! Amen!”
I admit to being at a temporary loss for words.
The cops are here now trying to find out what is going on. I am sure of one thing. No bullet pierced his forehead. I suspect a second thing — he is likely off his meds.
“And Jesus took the bullet!” he tells the officer.
The officer wants to know what the disposition will be. Am I taking him to the hospital or leaving him here?
“He needs to go to the hospital,” I say.
Finally, with enough convincing, and a comment from one of the deacons about how the Lord always be looking out for him, he agrees to go.
The congregation is singing “Jesus Build a Fence.” As we wheel him back out through the main room, he has a beatific smile on his face, clutching his Bible to his chest.
At triage, the hospital registrar wants to know why the patient is here. “I am tempted to say. “GSW to the head” just to watch the consternation. Instead I say “psych.”
I tell the longer narrative to the triage nurse and she just shakes her head. Meanwhile a resident has listened in on the story. He puts on some gloves and walks over to the man and has him take off his hat and then removes the Band-Aid that I had placed back on his wound.
“Lock-down,” the nurse says to me without waiting for a decision from the doctor.
The patient and I had a conversation on the way over to the hospital in the back of the ambulance.
“I am a lucky man,” he said. “Jesus lives on my street.”
“You are a lucky man,” I say.
But I am not thinking about him. I’m thinking back about the poor DJ who took his last breath in that very building – before Jesus signed the lease.