The broadcast email arrived at 11:25am “Important Message: Active Shooter situation in Shapiro”. At first, I thought it might be a joke, but over the next hour or so, several update messages were sent reassuring everyone that the shooter was no longer active and Brigham & Women’s Hospital was safe. Since no additional info was provided, I didn’t think much more about it and I planned to hear about it on the news that evening.
My lunch meeting across town at my work, Mass General Hospital, began at 1pm in the Tea Leaves
The voice was getting louder and louder. A hush came over everyone in the lower section of the atrium – almost a palpable fear. I looked up the open staircase to the level above and saw a man and his wife holding on to each other as they stood back – waiting. I couldn’t see anything else, but could still hear the man yelling:
“LEAVE ME ALONE!!”
As a physician, my first instinct is to help people. However, for the first time, I hesitated. My initial instinct was overshadowed by fear. I didn’t think the news I’d heard early impacted me, but I found myself debating whether to go and see if I could help. Surely, security would handle the situation, but this fear left me feeling uneasy and vulnerable sitting in that open atrium right along the window.
When I came home that evening, the evening news announced that a physician had been shot during the active shooter situation at my sister hospital earlier in the day. He had been taken immediately to the OR but was still in surgery – not a good sign. Was it someone I knew? They were not releasing the victim’s name.
At 10:45pm, I received the following email from BWH President, Dr. Betsy Nabel:
I am heartbroken to inform you that Dr. Michael J. Davidson, director of Endovascular Cardiac Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has tragically died this evening after sustaining gunshot wounds this morning during the shooting event at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.
This brilliant surgeon trained for 10+ years to become an endovascular surgeon – a highly skilled practice in cardiovascular medicine. A practice that has many successes, but is high-risk, often with very ill patients who might not make it through the procedure, but who would surely die without it. That’s medicine. It is not perfect. There are risks. The science of medicine is evolving daily. But more important, physicians are not perfect.