NaBloPoMo 2018: What I’m Learning
My friend texted me these words at 4:01pm Central Standard Time today.
Tamara O’Neal, an emergency medicine physician just one year out of training, was shot to death by her ex-fiancé. He then went on to kill two others, and he himself died, though it remains unclear if he shot himself or died from a police officer’s bullet. She was on her way to work, saving lives for a living, many of them probably victims of gun violence.
Samuel Jimenez, a 28 year-old police officer, also only beginning his career, was killed. He leaves behind a wife and three young children. He was doing his job, protecting innocent lives from deadly violence.
Dayna Less, a 25 year-old pharmacy resident, was also killed. She was still in training, planning to go home to Indiana tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family, and planning a wedding next year.
It could have been my hospital, or my husband’s hospital. Or one of the hospitals where my sister or my friends or my mom work. It could have been my children’s school. An elementary school a few blocks away was locked down until 5pm. What must that have been like for the kids and their parents?
I was safe in Chicago—today. But none of us are actually safe, as long as we collectively continue to do nothing about the public health crisis of gun violence that grips and gags us. And make no mistake it is a public health issue before it is a political issue. That said, we in healthcare must continue rise up and call for action in policy. We must demand more of our elected officials. They must represent us and our collective public interest first and foremost. A majority of the American public supports common sense gun laws like background checks, licenses for gun dealers, and restricting gun ownership by known domestic abusers. This should be reflected in our laws and law enforcement.
Please read about the victims of today’s shooting. Remember them before you read about tomorrow’s victims. Look up the people who died in Parkland and Pittsburgh. Put yourself in their shoes, as events unfolded on what started as just another day in their lives. Imagine what must have flown through their minds—thoughts of children, parents, spouses, regrets, things they wish they had done, things they had looked forward to. Imagine the terror, the disbelief, the pain, the utter loneliness, the longing for the comfort of loved ones, the wish for another day to be with them, to say goodbye.
Imagine being their family members now, trudging on each day without them, senselessly, with no justice, no closure. Imagine caring for patients and their families in the emergency department, the intensive care unit, the neurological rehab hospital. Imagine looking into the eyes of these people, the remaining years and decades of their lives irrevocably altered for the worse by events that unfolded over a few minutes. And then imagine, as you continue to gaze into their eyes, telling them sorry, there’s nothing we can do about it, this is just the way it is.
The only way enough of us will be moved to take action is if enough of us can truly relate to the experiences of the victims and their families. Nobody needs to actually live through such horror to be able to empathize. The human brain is wired for empathy and connection. At the same time that we cannot imagine what it must be like, we can absolutely imagine. But we choose to separate, to disconnect, when things are too uncomfortable, to protect ourselves. This is how tragedies like Columbine continue to happen, every week, every year, for decades. Not. Acceptable.
Read the American College of Physicians position paper on reducing firearm injuries and deaths. Apply a critical and objective eye and mind. Try to understand its reasoning and look up the citations. Read the appendix, the expanded background and rationale.
Do you want fewer people to die from gun violence in the United States?
What will you do to help reduce the harm? Because we all need to help.