A physician’s personal experience with gun violence

Like many of us, I have been struggling to reconcile my love for everything good about this country with the senseless gun violence that terrorizes us today. In the wake of each shooting, I vow to do more — to speak up as a surgeon, as a former victim of gun violence and simply as a fellow human — but the words escape me. How do we make meaning out of such shameful tragedy?

My first and most intimate experience with gun violence occurred at the age of five. “Shakku, I’ve been shot.” Those four words, and the events immediately preceding them, changed my family’s world forever. It was 1988, and we had just moved into a beautiful new house in the Fremont hills. Building a house in the previously barren hills was an endeavor that upset many citizens in the predominantly Caucasian community. And so, on a warm summer night, a gunman broke into our property, broke the glass in the kitchen window and shot my father multiple times. A vascular surgeon, ever calm in chaos, he climbed the stairs dripping blood, informed my mother of what had occurred, and hid my sister and I under a dresser desk before calling the police.

Shards from his eyeglasses would wedge themselves into his cornea and change his vision forever. Other, less visible wounds would bleed into our lives over time. To this day, in my thirties, in the darkness of my own home, I still at times fully expect to turn a corner face-to-face with an armed intruder.

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