From Nearly Dead to Medical School Graduate

Alex Lake, MD


July 12, 2018

This article was originally published on OnlineMedEd, a resource used by students across 191 countries that is dedicated to improving medical education through learning tools, including notes and diagrams, video, questions, and flashcards. This story is republished here with permission.

Imagine: You are only 6 months away from entering medical school, and you're physically assaulted. During the assault, you suffer a traumatic brain injury. What if I told you that this was only a month after you had been robbed and had a gun held to your head in a separate incident? Afterward, you listen as a neuropsychologist says you should take a year off before starting medical school or you will surely fail. Later, you're told to consider a different career track and that medical school will be far too demanding. It would've been easy to just give up; all of the excuses had been carefully laid out. But I didn't. Four years later, I scored in the top 10th percentile on both COMLEX Level 2 and USMLE Step 2 CK. I was also accepted to my top choice for residency.

'Don't Move or I'll Blow Your Brains Out'

This particular story begins sometime in 2013. During that time, I worked as a full-time emergency department (ED) scribe at a level 1 trauma center. The job was amazing; you encounter every bizarre emergency you could imagine. The entire experience was extremely interesting and served to support my decision to apply to medical school.

After working over 40 hours in 5 days, I was looking forward to a night out with friends. I had to work in the morning, so I headed home early. As I walked to my door to put the key in the lock, I was confronted by two hooded men who asked for my belongings. I reached into my pocket and felt something metallic being held to my head; it was a gun. I said, "Please, I'm a student. I don't have much to give you." One of the men threw me onto the ground face first, and his friend patted me down as he held the gun to the back of my head and barked, "Don't move or I'll blow your brains out."

I laid there for what felt like a lifetime. I've been asked many times what it's like to stare death in the face. Well, to be honest, I was so shocked, my thought process was like this: This guy is probably on some type of drug; I'll just follow commands and not move. His accomplice sounded anxious and uncomfortable as he patted me down, saying, "Can we get out of here? Let's leave. We got what we needed." The bigger man told him, "Do your job. We found us a rich white kid." Me? A rich kid? "In no way am I rich," I thought to myself. More than likely, I will probably owe almost half a million dollars in loans before my education is complete. He took everything out of my pockets: my phone, my wallet, and my keys to the car and apartment. I simply closed my eyes and followed their commands until I felt the heft of the gun pull away from the back of my head. I was left lying on the snowy ground, stripped of my belongings and afraid for my life.

After some time, the police arrived with their shotguns ready, but the thieves were gone. They let me into my house and said they'd patrol the area for the night. I tracked my stolen phone from my computer and told the cops its whereabouts, and was told, "That area is too dangerous for tonight. It was a gang thing." I'll admit that I was a little jittery for a few weeks and had to see a psychiatrist a few times. In the end, however, I accepted that it had happened to me.

'Dude, We Thought You Were Dead'

After a 5 PM–1 AM shift at the ED a few weeks later, I saw a guy punch a girl and knock her straight to the ground, literally right in front of me. I attempted to gently help the girl to her feet. As I lifted her hand from the ground, everything went black. I had absolutely no recollection of what occurred after I lifted her hand. My friends told me afterward that the assailant's accomplice seized me by the shoulders and slammed my body backward and onto the concrete; my head smashed the ground like a watermelon.


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