how can medical students help Boston?

By now, most of you know the identity of the man I pictured above.  His name is Carlos Arredondo and here’s a link to an interesting article about his involvement in the Boston Marathon tragedy.  The brief backstory: Carlos was at the finish line at the time of the explosions that killed 3 and injured nearly 150 people.  His purpose, as a long time peace activist, was to hand out little American flags to raise awareness for war veterans and was waiting for several people he knew at the line.

I’m not writing to tell you anything you havent found yourself online.  The first responders, anyone who helped, deserve incredible praise, admiration and recognition.  Many people have deep connections to Boston and the marathon.  Marathon Monday will be a holiday that no longer confuses anyone from outside New England.  Media outlets, bloggers, and FB posts reflect how pure a family tradition and a city tradition this holiday truly is.  I lived in Boston for four years after college and knowing that my old neighbors are checking in with each other, supporting each other, and loving each other gives me the peace I require to overcome the darkness of the event.  But I digress.

I decided against including an extremely graphic image (warning) that shows Arredondo pinching shut a major severed artery of an unidentified young male whose lower legs had been lost to the explosion.  [The young man survived, the image is all over the net].  The candid image is one of the most enduring and graphic images I have ever seen.  It reminds me of why I became enamored with medicine.  When I was younger, I saw tragedy firsthand and wrote about it in my AACOMAS essay.

          “Leading the younger children out, I heard another crash and a call for a
doctor. The victim was obese and the object in his airway was stubborn. Calmly
distracting the group in the next room, I scanned the door. The ambulance took
fifteen minutes to arrive; I saw the empty gurney enter and then leave with a large
bulge. Despite the Heimlich attempts of by-standers, this man died that night in
front of his entire family.
I didn’t necessarily learn anything about medicine that night, but I learned a lot
about myself. I learned that I cared. I remember having had a near palpable desire to
have the skill-set of a doctor and help this man in his critical time of need,
uncertainty, and fear. The ride home was pensive; I sat rapt staring out the window.
I couldn’t shake that sense of helplessness.”

Yesterdays events brought me right back to feeling helpless.  I took what happened in Boston personally yesterday and it developed into a state of shock, sadness, despair mixed with hope, faith, and resolve.  I saw men and women like Arredondo who ran into the fray and came out saving lives.  I read about doctors and nurses, participating in the event, who finished the marathon at a dead sprint and treated injuries around them without rest or water.  Podiatry students, from Temple, were stationed in the medical tent treating blisters and bunions etc that, a blast later, were inundated with injuries from the front lines of war.  Marathoners who escaped being detained in Brookline headed to the nearest hospitals to donate their exhausted blood.  It seems people love to help more than they love to hate.

Then, there’s the obvious realization.  I’m currently training to be one of those helpers.  This is not the last time a disaster will strike our homes.  Man-made or natural.  And really, the next time tragedy strikes we will all be full fledged physician of some sort.  People are going to turn to us and expect the best of us.  I intend to expect the best of myself and I certainly expect the same of all my classmates.

But guess what?  That’s pretty f***ing scary.  We aren’t there yet; we’re not ready.  We’re in training and despite our overwhelming compulsions to go help, if we can- we cant.  So, I’m using today to study.  Being perfect at what we do now will ensure that we are perfect in the moments that matter the most.

It’s our last block as first years.  Let’s do it well so that our communities can trust us to react perfectly, even in the most dire moments.

To Boston, I love you all and take care of each other.  God Bless all those who helped clear the streets and saved lives by keeping it together for those strangers who needed you most.


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