|I have to admit, I love being an ER doctor. It really is a remarkable thing to be able to help people during a crisis and to do a little good. True, there are many instances when tragedy occurs and there is nothing that can be done--when no dose of medication or spark of electricity will change a bad outcome. It's not like it is on television. Bad things happen sometimes; tragic, terrible things. Trauma can be just such a thing. It can change, or end, multiple lives suddenly and without warning. Some of the worse scenarios I have seen during my career have involved trauma. Or they have involved children. Or both. I know of no provider who is not moved by an injured child.|
Often, we in the ER are presented with the opportunity to do preventative medicine. Talking about seat belts, fire safety, car seats, and bicycle helmets are just a few examples. No matter how exceptional medical care may be, or how positive an outcome a patient has, preventing injury is preferable to treating it.
Last week a child was struck by a car at the corner of Blueberry Hill Road and Lawrence Drive. Although there is a crosswalk at this intersection, these roads are heavily traveled by both children and motor vehicles during the morning hours. I recall when there was a crossing guard assigned to this dangerous intersection. Yet at some point a decision was made that there was no room in Longmeadow's budget to pay for a crossing guard there. I recall thinking that an accident at this intersection is inevitable. Yet, regrettably, children's safety was sacrificed due to monetary constraints. I wonder--what is the break-even point? Is it a good decision to cut a crossing guard from the budget if five extra children a year are treated in a trauma room? Is that too many? Should the number really be three? Or two? Or one? Ask any parent or relative of an injured child how often the question of "what if plagues them. What if some small thing had been done to prevent a tragedy? Is there really a price that can be placed on an accident which does not occur?
If you doubt how serious issue is, I implore you to go to the intersection in question between 8 and 9 a.m. on any school day. But don't go there by car. Go there on foot, by bicycle, or by scooter. Travel the way the children do. Then cross from Tanglewood Drive to Lawrence Drive, or vice-versa, amidst the steady stream of cars, mini-vans, and buses. Pay special attention to the ages of your fellow pedestrians--it is more than likely that they will be between the ages of five and ten. Take notice as well that there is no sign or light marking the crosswalk at all.
As I said earlier, I love my job. I and my colleagues have many opportunities to make a difference in many people's lives. But who would object if there were less children coming for our special brand of care? The opportunity presents itself right now to do some good. Tell the Town of Longmeadow that there needs to be a crossing guard at Blueberry Hill Road and Lawrence Drive. If you do not, then please let me know what the current fair market value is for preventing a child's injury.
Thomas A. Brunell, M.D.,