Inside of the Gown
In this series, “Inside of the Gown,” I am questioning, examining, and discovering myself through the lens of my medical records, statistics, and personal experiences.
I am a physically impaired African American male born and raised in the southside of Chicago. I have endured mentally and physically scarring pain from my life following December 5, 2007, two pit bull mauling; that took nearly 80% of my face and, ultimately, my life. Over 13 years resulting from the accident, I have had 60 facial reconstruction surgeries. These surgeries are a part of me as they made my life today possible, feasible, and hopeful.
Years later, after the accident, I found out that I was one of 153 people reportedly attacked by pit bulls in Chicago alone that year. 1 2 That statistic continues to anger me as it’s not just me. Hundreds of others every year who are attacked by dogs and forever have their lives changed. Each year in the U.S, there are approx. eight hundred thousand reported dog bites, with 41% of them requiring medical attention. Also, 50% of all dog bite victims are children. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, over 2,400 dog attacks occur each day, one every 36 seconds. In 2019, there were 59 U.S dog bite fatalities, and pit bulls contributed to 69% (33) of them. 3
My body is constructed of stainless steel mixed with titanium metal screws, staples, plates, a metal chain, gold bars, and many more objects. As these intimidating surgical devices and hardware invasively injected deeply into my body, they continue to help sustain my life. This warm, fragile life is rapidly expanding and continuously healing. These devices and hardware aren’t separate from my identity; they became a part of who I am. I have neglected the medical implications of myself throughout the years. The negligence of that significant part of my character made me feel lost, disconnected, and hateful towards my image. I realized that there is no such thing as being normal, but who I am as a human being and what makes up my persona is my kind of normalcy.
The social perception of normalcy isn’t real. It’s only a social construct that society inherently places on individuals to create power hierarchies. It’s a flawed view that continues to exclude millions of people around the world. It’s a view that teaches kids that themselves or someone is different from the social norm. It’s a flawed view that needs to be changed and removed from society that includes everyone and creates a less divided world.
1 McCoppin, Robert. “Graphic: Dog and Cat Bites, Total Impoundments in Chicago.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, December 4, 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20131206062619/http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-1205-pitbull-abandonment-gfx-eps-20131204,0,2665037.graphic.
2 McCoppin, Robert. “Pit Bull Overload Floods Shelters, Strains Rescuers.” Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20131206062604/http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-pit-bull-abandonment-met-20131205,0,1261355.story?page=1.
3 “Dog Attack Facts & Figures: Children's Hospital Pittsburgh,” Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), accessed November 1, 2020, https://www.chp.edu/injury-prevention/safety/home-and-yard/dog-bites/facts-and-figures.