August 22, 2011
Charinez Jefferson’s infant son was born the day before my birthday but it was also the day that she died. The doctors kept her on life support while they frantically tried to deliver and save her baby, a scenario I know quite well.
Jefferson was gunned down on a Southside Chicago street at the tender age of 17 while walking to the store with friends. She allegedly stopped to speak to a guy that she knew and someone drove up and began shooting a gun. She didn’t know the gunman and reportedly begged him to spare her life as he fired several shots that ultimately pierced her head and body. It’s not clear why she was shot but quite often it never is.
On a hot summer day many years ago in New York City, a pregnant woman living in a housing project was shot by a bullet that pierced her kitchen window as she was cooking a pot of collard greens. Her husband, who was watching TV in the next room thought the loud bang that he heard was a fire cracker and quickly got up to check on his wife. He discovered her lying on the kitchen floor with a spoon clenched in her hand. I was a junior resident on call when the EMS rushed into the Emergency Room announcing that they had a pregnant woman with a gunshot wound who was barely alive. A stampede of running feet quickly converted the largest examination room into a make-shift operating room. There was simply no time to transport her up to the labor and delivery suite. She was dying and if we didn’t move quickly the baby would die too. Her vocal cords kept closing in spasms as the anesthesiologist attempted to place a breathing tube down her windpipe (aka trachea). The “code” team was doing CPR on her chest and my chief resident and our OB team were frantically attempting to deliver the baby by performing the fastest c. section on earth while the pediatricians were standing by holding a blanket. In the end we lost the mother, just like the doctors in Chicago lost Charinez Jefferson but saved her baby as they did in Chicago. Our patient’s baby remained in the hospital for almost 2 months before it was discharged home.
So far, Jefferson’s son appears to be stable but he will eventually be discharged home to his grandmother who has advanced breast cancer that has spread to her bones. Her pregnant daughter took an evening walk and never returns home. Sometimes life just doesn’t make any sense.