not again, not again (and again) 

Today was supposed to be a good day.

I woke up around 8 and that felt too early. Anything before ten these days feels ‘too early’ but then I remembered that I was late to clinical skills last session and so I got myself out of bed – I thought ‘it’s okay, I can sleep in tomorrow.’

I got dressed, warmed up my coffee and woke up hubs so I could get a ride to campus. Today we were doing a male genitourinary exam and digital rectal exam. Most practicing physicians have probably done hundreds of these exams but being a medical student, I obviously felt nervous. I also felt really grateful to the standardized patients who allow us access to their bodies so that we can learn to be better healers for our future patients, who allow us to perform exams that most would shy away from even when there is something wrong.

The majority of the first year of medical school, you learn about how humans work. You learn about the various mechanisms that allow our tickers to tick, our liver to flush out toxins, how the brain controls so many of those mechanisms. And once you feel like you’re finally getting a grasp on how we work, you get to second year and learn all the ways that we don’t. You learn about the pathology of each organ system and you start to wonder… how are any of us still alive and functioning? Life and living start feeling miraculous. And other than the bouts of ‘med student syndrome,’ (where we start thinking we have any disease we’re studying at the time) you really start to appreciate good health more than you ever have.

After clinical skills, I spent time getting fresh air and talking to one of my classmates about life, love, relationships, family planning, and so many other wonderfully real things. I’ve said it before and I’ll never stop saying it – I go to school with some of the best people I’ll ever know.

I went into the locker room and changed into my gym clothes. I walked over to the gym and just felt so so incredibly blessed. The weather was amazing, I had just had this conversation that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I got on the elliptical and put in my twenty minutes.

And then in the middle of my exercises, I got this email:

When I saw the title of the email, I was definitely confused. I go to school in Riverside and while that’s minutes away from San Bernardino, we hardly ever get emails from the campus police department regarding things outside the immediate vicinity of campus. I opened the email and my heart just sank – ‘not again, this can’t be happening again.’

The rest of my workout took about twice as long as it should’ve because I kept checking my phone for updates: 20 casualties so far – ‘okay, no one is dead yet.’ The scene is still active.

One of my best friends is in graduate school in San Bernardino. She’s getting her masters in social work and because the shooting occurred at a service center for people with disabilities, I texted her immediately to find out if she was okay. And until I got that text back from her, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. She’s worked in that building before. She could’ve been there but she wasn’t and for that I am so grateful.

12 dead. ‘NO. THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. Not here. Not to my people.’ I cried between each set of exercises after reading that. I just kept looking around the gym to see if there was anyone else who knew.

Hubs picked me up after I finished my workout and I held his hand the whole drive home because he was safe. My partner was safe. And I got to hold his hand all the way home. I got to hug him goodbye before he left for work this afternoon. I got to do all that.

But someone – only a couple miles away from here – she doesn’t get to hold her partner’s hand anymore. She’s not going to get to say goodbye to him when he leaves for work. She didn’t get to say her real goodbye because she never saw it coming. And that is just not okay.

I AM SO DONE WITH THIS SHIT. I would apologize for my language but there is really no other way to say it. How can we let this keep happening, over and over and over, and just sit here and pretend like every incident is an isolated incident. Newsflash: it’s not.

And I don’t want to hear one more gun lover tell me that it’s abhorrent to make a political agenda out of the deaths of innocent people before we ‘have all the facts.’ I have the facts that I need to decide not to let their deaths be even more meaningless than they already are. The fact is this: people with guns killed innocent people.

This has got to stop:

You’d think with that many gun deaths and mass shootings a year, I’d be desensitized enough so that I wouldn’t have to keep taking breaks in writing this post to cry my eyes out and then continue. And you’d be right. When the shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado happened, I thought ‘not again.’ I skimmed a couple articles about it and thought about how we really shouldn’t expect any other result of the bigoted accusations and dialogue surrounding Planned Parenthood lately – of course some citizen is going to take it upon himself to right what he believes is wrong. After a quick post to Facebook with the tag #Istandwith PP, I went back to studying gastrointestinal pathophysiology.

But this – this happened too close to home. This happened where my best friend sometimes works. This happened in the same area my classmates were supposed to go to clinic this afternoon. This happened here. So while I recognize that all victims of shootings and any other type of horror are equally victims and all of their lives matter, I am currently typing this up on my couch with a pile of tear stained tissues because these were my people. These were the people I drive alongside on freeways and wait next to in supermarket lines. These are the people who either worked in or required the services of an office that assisted people with disabilities – both mental and physical.

The world seems so fragile these days and I’m continuously alarmed by the number of people who have so much hate in their hearts that they’re ready to commit such heinous acts. Since the attacks in Paris, I’ve read so many bigoted and blood boiling things about the Syrian refugees. Hate crimes against Muslims, both in the United States and around the world have been on the rise since those attacks.

I spend my days learning how to care for human beings. I spend my days trying to master symptomology of diseases so that I never miss a diagnosis. I spend my days trying to understand drug mechanisms and appropriate therapies so that I may help those suffering from various ailments. I spend my days talking to future health care professionals through this blog and my Instagram so that I can tell them that they’re not alone in their fears and struggles. I spend my days trying to bring enough love into this world to make up for all this hatred and darkness but it never feels like enough.

And as a future physician, I recognize that gun violence is a public health issue – as do so many doctors all around the country. Just hours before the shooting in San Bernardino, physicians delivered a petition signed by more than 2,000 doctors urging Congress to lift the ban on the CDC conducting research on gun violence in the US. There are more mass shootings in the US than days in the year – this is an epidemic. The health of the public is most definitely at risk and I can’t just sit by and watch anymore.

This country is in desperate need of gun control. Information about this shooting is still coming in but you can follow along with NY Times for live updates. I’m not an expert here, I know that. I know that I don’t have the answers for what we should do and what would actually work but I do know this: this is not working.

So please, please – join me in contacting your state representatives in demanding action on gun control. This, in no way will lessen the suffering of those who lost loved ones. Nothing will ever change the fact that their lives were taken unjustly, that they’re all gone too soon. But my respect and love for life does cannot end within my textbooks. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these attacks but that can’t be the only thing we do: there’s so much more to be done.

If I do this alone, it won’t matter. Let’s have our voices heard. We need to start demanding that our representatives actually represent us.

  1. See if there are currently any bills in your area regarding gun reform. If you’re from California, you can read about current proposed legislature here.
  2. Call or email your state representatives and legislators. You can enter your zip code here to get their contact information. Here are some tips on how to effectively communicate your thoughts to your representatives.
  3. Post on social media to raise awareness about the need for gun control and encourage others to also contact their representatives.
  4. Hug your loved ones a little tighter tonight and tell them how much they mean to you. In the world we’re living in right now, we never really know if we’ll get a chance to ‘later.’

We must stop being complacent. We have to demand change because there have been too many tragedies. I refuse to accept that we can’t make change happen.

We can and we will.

3 thoughts on “not again, not again (and again) 

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Anum. I’ve been scared and angry and worried, and haven’t really been able to talk about any of it. Your perspective is important and really beautifully written here. I’m glad you and your friend and your husband are safe, and I’m glad you put this out into the world.

    Like

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