The 18th District station, also known as the East Chicago Avenue District, was located at 113 WEST Chicago Avenue. Go figure. The Henrotin Hospital was located about two blocks north at LaSalle and Oak in the 18th District.
We called Henrotin “Cook County North.” It was much smaller than Cook County Hospital of course, but their Emergency Room was no less intense that that of County’s. It was the medical portal for bloody noses from Rush Street, chronic drunks from Clark Street, strung out Hippies from Old Town and the shooting and stabbings from the Cabrini Housing Projects to the west. In short, if you had a serious medical emergency and needed an experienced team, the Henrotin ER was a good place to go.
The staff was police friendly and they even maintained a “police room” with a telephone and 24 hour pot of hot coffee.
Dr. Whitney—all names altered here to protect the innocent—was a fixture, an excellent physician with a pragmatic approach toward providing emergency medical treatment. He knew many of the patrol officers by name.
I was in the police room one night when I heard Doc Whitney call from the ER, “Any police out there?”
“Whatdya need Doc?” I responded standing at the foot of a gurney in a curtained cubicle.
He and a diminutive nurse were struggling with a Clark Street drunk sporting a deep laceration over his left eye. Drunkie didn’t want to be stitched, but it was a catch-22; the lockup wouldn’t take him until he was treated and Whitney figured that adhesive tape would only find him returning to the ER later in the night. Whitney looked up at me.
“Padar! Put on a pair of gloves and hold this guy’s head.” The nurse gratefully stepped aside as I opened a pair of surgical gloves. Drunkie had been restrained, arms and legs, but there was no way to keep him from twisting his head back and forth. I looked at the unkempt man and concluded that the gloves were more for my protection than his.
“Hold his head while I try to get a couple of stitches in his noggin.”
Whitney and I worked shoulder to shoulder, struggling with the drunk until he finally surrendered or passed out, I don’t know which. I held some of the sutures while Whitney secured the knots. It took us about five minutes to complete the task. As I stripped off the gloves and stepped over to the waste receptacle, the Doc called out to nobody in particular.
“Who’s charting this?”
“I am,” responded the little nurse.
“Padar assisted, knock off ten bucks,” said Whitney with a sparkle in his eye.
“Thanks a lot Doc,” I said with mock indignation.
The following night I was back at Henrotin assigned to a robbery victim from Old Town. He was being treated for some unknown injury and while I waited, I copied his vital information from the chart for my case report. Daniel Henderson, age 17…
“Who’s got the report on this Henderson kid?” called Whitney from a curtained cubicle.
“I do,” I called out.
“Get in here,” said Whitney.
Visions of the previous night flashed before my eyes. I pushed into the cubicle to see a frightened young man on the gurney, covered from the waist down with a white sheet and looking to be about the age reported on his chart.
“Pull that curtain behind you,” said Whitney as he pulled the sheet off the boy, revealing a scrotum the size of a softball.
It was of those things that police officer’s see that make them involuntarily cringe.
“I don’t know what you want Doc, but I ain’t touching that thing,” I said.
It was the boy’s turn to react with embarrassment. He pulled the sheet up quickly to cover himself as Whitney laughed.
“No, no, no—it’s nothing like that. I just wanted you to see what we’re dealing with here. He was kneed in the groin. It’s a hematoma caused by a broken blood vessel that’s draining into the scrotum. If I drain it, it’ll just bleed more. Best to just leave it and send him home. It’s already stopped bleeding and it’ll reabsorb in about four of five days.”
“So?” I asked, wondering why I was even in the room.
“So,” said Whitney patiently, “He’s a robbery victim with no wallet and no ID and no money and he has to get home and he’s got this…” nodding toward the sheet, “…and he lives in Oak Park. Is that right?” he said turning to the boy.
The boy’s eyes had been darting from the doc to me. He nodded his head silently.
“You’ll see to that?” said Whitney as more of a statement than a question. I nodded my head.
He could walk with minor discomfort, but obviously could not zip up his blue jeans. Whitney helped get him arranged, perhaps the very first documented incident of letting “it all hang out.” By not tucking in his shirt, he was able to present a rather benign image of modesty. I of course knew what was under the shirt and felt a mixture of sharing his discomfort and the competing urge to laugh.
Out in the squad I called my sergeant and asked permission to drive a victim to his home in Oak Park. Permission denied no cars available. Not wanting to get into a prolonged dialogue on the air, I asked the sergeant to meet me in the station. Negative he replied, telling me to take it up with the desk sergeant.
Danny Henderson hobbled into the lobby of the 18th District with me. It was a madhouse.
“Do you want to sit down?” I asked him.
“No, it’s worse when I sit… it kinda shows.” He pulled the front of his shirt down as far as he could and leaned against the wall across from the desk.
I explained the situation to the desk sergeant and he looked across kind of curiously at the kid.
“Trust me, sarge, you don’t want to see this,” I said. The sergeant grimaced.
“See who’s at home and have them send someone to get him,” said the desk sergeant. Somehow I knew he was not going to overrule the street sergeant.
“Danny. Is someone at home?” I asked.
“Yeah, my ma.”
“Does she drive?”
“Does she have money for a cab?”
“Of course.” He looked at me as if I had asked a silly question.
At the desk, I handed him the phone. He dialed, waited a moment and then panicked.
“I can’t tell my mom!” he almost screamed and promptly handed the phone back to me.
Now I had a doubly difficult time choking on my macabre sense of humor while explaining Daniel’s predicament in discreet terms—not street terms—to a very genteel sounding woman in Oak Park. After listening carefully, mom opted to take a cab from Oak Park and pick her son up personally.
Alas, it’s another story without an end because it was indeed a busy night and I had to go back out on the street. The next time I came by the station, bulbous boy was gone.
The following night, as every night, there was another assignment at the Henrotin. Conversation with Doc Whitney turned briefly to Danny and he assured me he would make a complete recovery.
“But it’s probably not a story he’ll tell his kids,” smiled Whitney.
“His kids?” I looked quizzically at him.
“I’m just tellin’ ya, he’s gonna to be alright!” said the doc.