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Crescent Review 14.3

     He was a mess. The lower half of his face was intact but the upper half, from his eyebrows up, was a mushy red smear. A pink halo of bloodstained snow surrounded his head. We picked him up as carefully as we could, slid him onto the stretcher and into the bus, and started an IV line.
     We got the story from his partner on the way to the hospital. The partner was half crazy, blaming himself. They got their panel truck stuck in the snow so they jammed a couple of bricks under the back tires for traction. So the partner's at the wheel and our guy wanders behind the truck to watch the proceedings. The partner guns it and wham, a brick flies out from under the tire and hits our guy smack in the forehead.
     I do not have a good feeling about this one. It does not look like a save to me.
     When we bring him into the ER, they call the neurosurgery resident on duty and it turns out I know him from past deliveries. He asks if I want to scrub up and watch the operation. My shift ends in fifteen minutes so I tell him, sure, what the hell.
     When the brick hit, it shattered the skull and drove fragments of bone and brick and baseball cap into the guy's brain. Working under a very bright light, the resident peels the guy's face back and starts picking these tiny fragments out with tweezers and a suction tube like a miniature vacuum. It's tedious work, and it goes on for a long time. In the meantime, one of his assistants cuts a titanium screen to fit the missing forehead. Eventually, the resident inserts the screen, rolls the face back up over the screen and skull, and stitches it in place with the help of two assistants. It's eerie, watching the face go back on. It looks like they're repairing a robot, or a very elaborate doll. I wonder if the man under the face is still identifiable.
     The resident leaves the assistants to clean up. Elapsed time in the operating room: just under three hours. I follow him into the scrub room.
     Will he make it, I ask?
     The resident is drying his hands. He considers my question.
     Put it this way, he says. If he lives, he might be able to sell newspapers, but I doubt if he'd be able to make change.
     I hear some noise in the corridor, and then a young woman bursts through the door followed by the guy's partner. She is wild-eyed, ashen.
     Will he make it, she asks?

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