This evening the ambulance brought in a 10 year old boy from one of the refugee camps around Jerusalem. He had been shot in the eye by a policeman with a “sponge bullet” and, according to the news report I read later, was in a Moderate Condition (“Matzav Beinoni”).
“Moderate Condition” apparently corresponds to complete destruction of one eye, numerous facial fractures, and a fracture into his other eye.
We intubated him, took him to the OR, where over several hours the surgeons removed the remnants of his eye, fixed and plated a bunch of bones, and brought him to my ICU sedated and ventilated.
I have just finished explaining to the family that his eye has been removed. That he would never see with that eye again. I had to explain it three times, as they went through the naturally difficult process of accepting what had happened to their child.
I tried to soften it by saying that we think we have saved the other eye. That, thank God, he didn’t suffer brain or spinal damage. That tomorrow we hope to wake him up.
And then, I said “I’m sorry”.
To this very moment I’m not sure for what I was saying sorry.
Was it the “sorry” that we were taught in England was a natural way to show sympathy for a patient receiving bad news?
Was it a “sorry” that we couldn’t save his eye?
Was it an apology-in-absentia for the policeman who felt justified in shooting a 10 year old in the face?
Was it a communal apology, on behalf of all Jewish Israelis, for having put that policeman there? For having put the kid in the refugee camp? For almost laughing at Ayelet’s question “was it a Jewish or Arab kid” (who ever heard of a Jewish kid being shot by a rubber bullet in the face?).
I want to blame someone.
I thought about blaming the boy, after-all perhaps he threw stones at the border policeman. But he is a 10 year old, and 10 year olds do stupid things, and should not be punished with gunfire.
I thought about blaming the policeman, but he was possibly facing kids throwing real rocks. He was probably told to guard a particular spot, and had limited ways to deal with the situation.
I considered blaming the family. Shouldn’t they have kept an eye on the boy better? Shouldn’t they have taught him that policemen with rifles are dangerous? Maybe they brought him up to be violent. Who knows? But I can’t blame the grieving parents of a kid who was just coming home from school, my have done something stupid, and will now be disabled for life.
So I have to blame The Situation. The situation where we put paramilitary policemen in close contact with kids. Where we justify the frequent use of violence as being the only way we can assert control, without stopping to think whether we should be there at all. Where most of us will never have to come face to face with the consequences of us blindly letting The Situation continue.
Perhaps I am apologising for my part in that, and for having failed to do anything to improve matters.