“Stay in your lane!” the gun advocate commanded to the doctors protesting gun violence.
Here is our lane.
There is the emergency room doctor on his 11th hour of a 12-hour shift taking the call from an EMT that a shooting is happening nearby, resulting in several casualties. The doctor takes a bite from a stale sandwich, a swallow from bottled water and a deep breath. Pronouncing the dead from a gunshot wound has become routine by now. Those dead on arrival take little time. The doctor sounds the call and greets the ambulance, hoping to save a life.
Then there is the gloved and gowned pathologist in the morgue. The caseload for autopsies includes a little girl with brains in her hair where there should be braids. There are bodies of teachers and police who tried to protect the children. There are too many autopsies, reports and testimonies for the weary doctor to keep up with.
Then there is the surgical team, occasionally breaking scrub to change shoes, bloody gowns, and sweaty gloves; to use the toilet and return to the table and lamp to repair a torn body.
Double-shift doctors in ICU are reading data, supporting staff and families. They have numb feet and disciplined feelings.
The doctor administrator spends quiet time in the hospital chapel for strength to mobilize limited resources. Time spent is short but useful.
In our lane are the psychiatrists: some facing the gun-holding individual.
This doctor could join a crew of dead psychiatrists whose best efforts with the mind have failed. Some psychiatrists prevail with treatments to heal the anxious, desperate and confused mind. A team of outstanding professionals gives these doctors huge support.
Shooting doctors and clinics have been a sport for years. Guns are everywhere, easy to use and are appealing to the desperate person as a resource. Our lane has first-hand experience with the lethality and morbidity of gun violence.
Survivors of wounds require rehabilitation of the mind and body in stages and longterm. Overworked and few in number, the rehabilitation doctors infuse creativity, affection and energy into the therapeutic mix.
Family practice physicians are holding up everyone, once the specialists drop out. They treat the guts, insomnia, the tremors and the fallout of the family health.
The lane includes the epidemiologists, screaming for help and issuing an alarm. We have an epidemic with gun violence. Funding for research is unavailable. Health care for the poor is lacking. We know the death toll and the cost of broken minds. Research data will improve prevention and efficacy of treatment. These doctors are not reticent communicators.
Our lane runs alongside many sturdy lanes. We need each lane to accomplish survival. Stopping gun violence is a journey for all of us. Walk with the doctors along the highway.
Dr. Eloise Clymer Haun, of Woodstock, is a former president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia.