Hitting a Nerve

A routine day for most turned horrific for others


 

Friday, Dec. 14, was just another routine day at my office. I had a lighter schedule than usual (which always seems to happen as Christmas approaches), test reports to review, and medications to refill.

Sometime just before the first patient came in, a news bulletin crossed my computer screen about a possible gun incident at a school in Connecticut. I forwarded it on to a few friends, but didn’t think much about it at the time. Becoming numb to random gun violence is an unfortunate part of American life.

I went on with my day. I saw patients. MRI reports were dropped off. I reviewed them, made decisions, and e-mailed my nurse as to what to tell patients. People called in to report side effects, migraines, seizures, and I made changes as needed. I saw more patients.

As the hours went by, more reports came in, each more horrific than the last. At some point it became hard to focus on the patients, but you have to.

You resist the urge to text your kids to make sure they’re okay. Or go get them and take them home. You think about how horrible it must be to be a parent in these situations. You hope it never happens to you. And through it all I refilled scrips for Imitrex, Plavix, and Lamictal, looked at lab results, and went ahead with the daily business of a medical office.

At the end of the day, the final toll was in: 28 dead (including the shooter), 20 of them young children. Even in a land where shootings aren’t even news anymore, this one cracked through. An entire first-grade class wiped out. Christmas presents waiting in attics, never to be opened. A searing image of a young woman in tears, holding a cell phone.

It was 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. My last patient was done. My secretary and I shut down the computers, rolled the phones, and left. Both of us had to pick up our kids from school. For us, it was just a normal day. Something to be more thankful for than ever.

And at the same time, the feeling of horror and sorrow is there, for those affected. I wish that I could do something – anything – to turn back the clock and have made Dec. 14 just another boring day for parents in Connecticut, too. But there is the helplessness of knowing I can’t, and that nothing will change.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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