Yesterday was my last day working with the trauma response team at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, coincidentally timed with Wednesday's gun control defeat by congressional leaders.
For the past two months, I witnessed the horrible aftermath of urban gun violence, for 12-24 hours daily. The nurses and residents worked tirelessly to make life more manageable for young people hooked up to ventilators in the ICU, hanging on to life and dignity with open abdominal wounds spewing intestinal contents, or paralyzed without use of their limbs, lungs, or voices.
Some may write off what comes through Highland's ER doors as simply intractable gang-related violence for a hopeless population. But the victims I worked with have more often been innocent bystanders of absurd, meaningless crimes: a teenage girl shot while waiting in line for a bus in broad daylight, a young woman paralyzed from the neck down from a bullet intended for someone else at a party, an off-duty paramedic shot and killed by alleged teenagers for no apparent reason, while driving to visit his ailing father in the Oakland Hills.
I can't express how disappointed I am with our lawmakers for rejecting measures so obviously impactful as increasing background checks for gun owners and restricting assault weapons and high-powered ammunition. Our patients' assailants were less frequently organized gang members and more often scared, disenfranchised youth with unaddressed mental health issues who stumbled upon easily available weapons and lashed out at the world.
What happens now is not "someone else's problem." It doesn't matter where we live, how much money we make, the color of our skin or where we were born - Wednesday's ruling was a vast disappointment, an outrage, and will compromise the safety of Americans everywhere.