Our doors are always open…
My name is Anish Agarwal. I’m an Emergency Medicine physician here in West Philadelphia. I work at our trauma center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
I have the honor to treat vulnerable populations and to see anyone who comes through our doors. The other day, another young man was brought into our emergency room. He represents, unfortunately, a very common thing. An epidemic of violence of young black men being killed. A tragedy here in West Philadelphia.
We wish we had a chance to know him. We wish we could show his family that we did everything we could. We wish that they could see that we cared about him, and we still care for him.
I wish families could see all the things that we do. How we move, how we mobilize teams, and jump into action. In the emergency room, the nurses, the doctors, the unnamed army of people come to try to revive people. We struggle because we don't know what happens outside of our doors. What we do know is when we get an alert that someone is coming in, we literally drop what we're doing, and we run to our trauma bay. There's probably twenty people that come together to form a team, laser focused on one person, one action. Attempting to save someone's life, to bring them back to life.
It's hard in the emergency room to really process things in the moment. I've struggled personally and I struggled with my community to think about how in the ER we live in this very unique setting. An intersection of vulnerable people, societal changes and demands, mental health, and violence. We see more violence every day.
In the ER, all we see are the people that come to us. It's been hard. I found myself grieving for someone that I cared for, for the first time. For so long, we’ve been siloed in terms of where healthcare providers are. There are few who can span both the clinical care and the advocacy within communities. I think part of the healing process for me has been thinking about how do I step out of the ER, but bring my clinical perspective to advocate for change?
This terrible situation and this terrible death, and here we are from the healthcare side and we can't talk to anyone. We sort of have to reach out and find one another. I was talking to one of the nurses the other day. For us to talk, it was a moment of connection we hadn't had, and now we do have. Here we are, feet apart in the ER, but we never connected about how we both are doing.
There's been countless young black men who come in, and are shot, and are dead. And I've never had a colleague reach out to me ever. And I've never reached out to a colleague either. With the national attention, people are coming out of the woodwork to actually focus on it, and hopefully lift up that rug, where we all sweep under the emotions that we initially feel.
You know I'm a father, and I have young children. And I can't imagine what his parents and his family is going through right now. I don't know that I've ever really grieved for someone I didn't really know, but someone who I was so intimately, at least for a short period of time, focused on saving.
I know my colleagues are grieving. I know West Philly is also grieving. I hope families know that when they bring people to us in the emergency room, we treat whoever is in front of us. Our doors are open and they will always remain open to help protect and care for and provide support for whoever walks through our doors.
I hope that his family knows that we ran, and we will continue to run, not only for him and for them, but for everyone in our city.
The Penn Medicine Listening Lab is a storytelling initiative that embraces the power of listening as a form of care. While the stories featured here aspire to uplift and empower, they may also describe experiences of trauma and suffering. We recognize that listening can be a vulnerable experience and offer resources at Penn Medicine and beyond through our website for those in need of support.
Tags: Empowering Communities