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Most of my brain processed appropriately. A few rogue neurons failed. I was conscious of my surroundings, but was simultaneously in 2004. My leg clamped between doors. Clinging to an undercarriage. Laying naked on a gurney. The conference hall was lost to darkness. My stomach lurched. My heart raced. A python squeezed my chest. The words from the podium were lost to screeching wheels that I KNEW were not there.
I tried to focus – tried to pull air into my lungs. I closed my eyes and held my breath, I was back. I was safe. I was okay. I was surrounded by people who deal with trauma every day.
I had joked about the accident for years and had ridden many trains. Somehow hearing this story triggered a physio- logic response that left me paralyzed.
Trauma and its effects are before us daily - sometimes ob- vious. The military veteran’s flashbacks. The sexual assault survivor scrubbing themself raw. The gunshot wound in the trauma bay. We have a long way to go in addressing these acute situations and physical, financial and psychiatric se- queale, but they are the tip of the ice berg.
Trauma can be subtle. Some consciously or subconsciously suffer daily from recent or past trauma. Research shows that trauma suffered as a child impacts adults. Trauma can also be indirect - ripples from community violence or exposure to traumatic events have real effects. I think of COVID-19
- a patient with chest pain who lost his wife to coronavirus; a colleague who was intubated. Recent social uprisings - a grandmother terrified that her developmentally delayed black grandson will have problems with police. Trauma and its triggers take many forms.
The responses to trauma vary greatly. That is okay. However, we need to be cognizant of the acute and chronic impacts of trauma not only as healers – but as community members.
We may never truly “let go” of trauma. But we don’t need to get dragged.
Mention Essay:
Let Go or Be
Written by Katherine
M. Joyce, MD, MPH, Emergency Medicine, Henry Ford Health System
“Let go or be dragged.” The magnet on my fridge was a tongue-in cheek gift.
I was a parlor trick. “You’re the one that got dragged by a TRAIN?” After falling asleep on the subway
en route to a babysitting gig during my freshman year of college, I woke alone on the second car of
a moving train. I pulled the emergency brake and exited – but the driver in the first car overroad it.
My foot was trapped between the doors, and I was dragged along the rails. I clung to the undercar- riage, wheels screaming next to my face. I pressed my free leg against the accordion doors and tumbled down. After a short stay in the hospital I was largely unscathed. I hobbled onto the subway, cervical collar in place. I had no time for PTSD. I laughed about
the accident. My nickname was “D-line” – after the MBTA Subway line. I was coping. As the magnet said – I had let go, and wasn’t about to get dragged.
So I thought.
Thirteen years later I sat at a trauma symposium.
I was excited to spend time with the Trauma Recov- ery Center. Their programming included pairing survivors of trauma with other survivors to assist
in their recovery.
One speaker was my age. We’d met before and I knew he was a double amputee but didn’t know his story.
He was a freshman in college, walking along rail- road tracks by a resting train. His shirt got caught and when the train started, he was dragged beneath, ultimately losing both legs.
   26 Detroit Medical News Third Quarter 2020

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