The first thing that struck me about St. Louis was the heat and humidity. The weather regularly hit 100 degrees during the day and I would sweat buckets anytime I was outside. This made packing up my brother’s sedan and our rental with all the stuff he accumulated through the years especially challenging.
The second thing I noticed was the beautiful red brick that so many buildings were built from. St. Louis is an old city, and many of these buildings were built from bricks made from the clay deposits that can be found on the shores of the Mississippi Valley. The bricks had a dark reddish hue giving a deep sense of weight and history to the city. I’ve never felt anything like it growing up in the Bay.
Coincidentally, for the past year my brother worked for an institution called the BRIC. The BRIC stands for bullet related injury clinic and is an outpatient clinic that specializes in helping people heal after they have been injured by a bullet.
While I was there we visited the clinic and he gave me a tour. It was a small, two-floor commercial unit on Delmar Boulevard. The space had been retrofitted to fit in a few small clinic rooms with a privacy curtain separating them. A small room was constructed in the back so patients could have private conversations with a chaplain who was hired by the clinic.
Upstairs there was a resting space with couches where patients could relax if they needed to. Another room had a space for staff to work on developing their outreach plans. Outreach included proactively reaching out to and physically visiting community members who were in need of the BRIC’s services.
When we walked in, my brother was immediately greeted with a barrage of hugs from all the staff members. They reminisced about times they shared at the clinic and caught up on how past patients were doing. Some were doing better and others had stopped coming abruptly, leaving folks to wonder how they were doing.
Dr. Punch, a trauma surgeon and director of the BRIC, relates how a bullet injury causes trauma that stays with a patient and those close to them long after the initial impact.
In St. Louis alone hospitals have cared for more than 10,000 patients with acute firearm injuries over the past decade. The existing hospitals and medical infrastructure in the area do not prioritize caring for the immediate needs of these patients. They also do not provide the ongoing support to make them whole again. Patients at the clinic have related over and over again how they had been dismissed by medical staff and de-prioritized because of the stigma of coming to a hospital with a bullet wound.
While driving up my brother and I stopped at a Taco Bell to eat and rest up. I always like road trips because it is the one way I can eat at my favorite fast food restaurant guilt-free.
While there he told me stories of the staff I had just met at the BRIC. How many had grown up in the community and now worked there to heal some of the pain they saw. How some of them had been victims of gun violence themselves before coming to work at the clinic. The strength and resilience he had seen people show up with day in and day out.
He talked about the heartbreak of seeing patients make such good progress before suddenly dropping out of treatment for reasons beyond their control. We had talked periodically about his work before on phone calls but this was the first time I could truly feel what he had been going through for the past year.
He couldn’t stop talking about how every single person cared deeply about the community they grew up in and were doing everything in their small sphere of power to make it better. Many of the folks who worked at the BRIC were already doing outreach on their own before joining the organization.
After living there for five years, the people he worked with at the clinic had the deepest impact on him and were the hardest thing to let go.
I’m proud of who my brother is, and I’m honored to have met the people that I met at the BRIC. I didn’t think I’d find anything to love in the heat of St. Louis but I left feeling deeply thankful to all the people who helped shape who he is today.
To learn more about the BRIC and support their work visit the following link: