Tomorrow it will be two weeks.
Two weeks since shots rang out at Bronx Lebanon Hospital and sent thousands of people into a panic. Two weeks since a place that is meant to heal was turned to into a chaotic hell of sorts. Two weeks since an innocent life was taken and multiple lives were forever changed by the act of a man that took an oath to heal. An act of a man who at one point took an oath to "first do no harm". An act of a man that now forever unbeknownst to us decided end life rather then prolong life.
For the last two weeks, I have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on exactly how this event has impacted me. On that Friday, I, like most, was in complete shock and immediately started focusing my prayers and energy to all who were affected. Although we knew that some of our fellow classmates were completing their elective rotations at the hospital, chatter on facebook had alluded to the fact that most students had been contacted by administration and were safe. We would later find out that despite administration's efforts to contact all students who were rotating at Bronx-Lebanon, some of those students did not pick up their phones. Some of those students were seriously injured in this tragedy. Some of OUR classmates were hurt. Needless to say, it hit home very quickly. On that Friday, I too was in a hospital. I was probably doing the same thing those other students, making rounds, seeing patients, learning and living the dream while also anxiously anticipating the weekend. I too was in a place where I consider myself safe. Safe from all of the violence and danger of the outside world. A place where people come to prolong their life, not to end it. I too was in a place that on most days seemed like a haven of sorts. A place that despite all the heartache and pain that is endured and witnessed by many, is still filled with hope and happiness for others. I too was in a hospital on that Friday.
I find that one of the hardest things to imagine is that after an tragedy like that is to go back the next day. But as healthcare professionals, many times there is no other option. You are the caregiver. You are the caretaker. You are the healer. You are the peacemaker. You are the comforter...not only to your patients but to your fellow colleagues. You still have to show up because people are depending on you, people are leaning on you, and to be fair- you need those other people. Hundreds of hospital staff had to go back not only later that day but also the next day and walk those same halls where they may have ran through or hid in while fearing for their lives. Many of that hospital staff will probably be dealing with various cases of PTSD for the immediate future while still providing healing care to their patients. We choose this profession because at the end of the day, we care for the lives of others more than we care for our own, but when met with a tragedy of this nature Where does one begin? As a medical student, although I try to put myself in my classmates shoes, I know I can't but I try to at least imagine how that experience affects your perception of safety in a hospital and your perception of how you can heal others when you now feel so broken. I am even finding it difficult to eloquently describe these emotions and experiences. Tragedy completely jumbles the mind. Tragedy causes chaos.
At first I wanted this piece to reflect on the oath of "do no harm" and what that truly means to a budding healthcare professional especially in the setting of physician homicide-suicide. I also wanted to write a piece talking about physician burnout and that piece will definitely come because it is such a hot topic and an important one. But the only thing I can imagine is how at one point, this tragedy would have affected me but it still would have felt to be a comfortable distance from my reality. But that is no longer the case because the fact is that I truly could have been one of those student victims. This is now my reality. I too was in a hospital that day.