One of the consequences of the internet is that news travels fast. These days, we learn within seconds about mass shootings, wildfires spurring out of control, airplane crashes, or hurricanes waiting to make landfall.
If you are over 30 years old, you likely recall vividly what you were doing you when our country was hit with one of the most horrific tragedies we had ever seen. Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I stood in shock as I watched the World Trade center crumble on television. My son (3 months old then) and I had just landed in Jackson, MS following a trip to Michigan on September 9th. A whirlwind of “what if” thoughts raced across my mind as my husband and I headed to the golf course. If my flight had been 2 days later, I might have been among those whose lives were shortened by this crisis. I couldn’t concentrate that morning on my golf game, although I admit that concentration to get that little ball to land at the right spot has always been a task for me. September 11th would be the first of many days, weeks and months that Americans were in shock about how the incident could happen in the first place. All of us were united on an awesome mission to find survivors, clean up rubbish and mend broken spirits. We prayed together, sang together, and stayed together to fight terrorism against our nation. Different human complexions, cultures, religions, educational back grounds, and ethnicities were impacted. We stood as one – embracing diversity, inclusion, and equity. The massive turmoil and devastation affected ALL Americans in one way or another, whether rich or poor. We all knew that survival was not related to insurance or money but to availability of health services, firemen/women, and policemen/women as our first responders.
Terrorism, natural disasters and the more recent COVID-19 virus keep physicians on their toes. They understand what is at stake in being able to respond quickly and altruistically. We tend to respond in a caring manner to massive disasters where many lives are lost (which occur infrequently) as opposed to strokes, myocardial infarction, cancer, sepsis, hypertensive crisis, renal failure, or gun violence. Yet, these maladies occurring daily are individual disasters. Physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and all ancillary services are crucial to providing the benefits of their training and the heart of their humanity to turn a personal disaster into a medical miracle.
We must remember to treat aggressively without implicit bias the 90 year-old with fever, leukocytosis, and back pain; the 25 yo with chest pain, ECG changes, and mildly elevated troponin for possible pericarditis vs myocarditis vs myocardial infarction; and, the 45 yo with dyspnea, heart rate of 160 bpm for 5 days (Atrial flutter with rapid ventricular response). These patients all were seen in a clinic setting prior to admission. Those admissions were individual tragedies.
We advocate for all patients. It often is a hard job in multiple ways. Seek to relieve the stress by taking time to hit the ball (tennis or golf), bounce the ball (basketball or soccer), or just walk or run. You will feel good about being a part of the first responder team. While it is hard, often tedious work, it’s also an honor.