“You’re wonderful and you’re helping people just like she would. Remember she’s there with you with every patient you see, in everything you do”
Leah was full of life
This is a letter to Leah and to everyone else who may have ever crossed paths with her. This is also my therapy.
I haven’t fully accepted that Leah is gone. I cannot even begin to make sense of it. This must be a nightmare and I’m going to wake up and all will be better. Although I only met her at the start of residency, our friendship was undeniable. She was my best and closest friend I had in this program. At times I felt like she was my other half because of our similarities and connection. I can recall the first time I ever met Leah through a get together at my apartment, prior to the start of orientation. I had never met her in person before, but when I opened the door to let her in, she immediately gave me a warn hug. Our friendship and love was instant. Leah was warm, bubbly, and always had a kind thing to say to everyone. After any bad day or shift, she took time to check in on me or send me a funny note or message to cheer me up. Leah’s heart was full of passion and love.
Leah was also full of life. In her short amount of time with us, it was evident that she was a great doctor. She studied and worked hard. She took pride in what she did and cared deeply for her patients. She would go out of her way to teach the students and interns. She was proud of our program and proud to be apart of it. But she also had so many goals she wanted to accomplish in life: she wanted to finish residency, get married and have children. Leah will never have the chance to do any of these things and my heart breaks for her. She was taken away from us too soon.
What do we do now? I’ve never lost someone who was so young and so unexpectedly. I am an ER doc, I deal with death of all ages all the time. But this is different. This is Leah. The world lost a great person. She had so much love to give this world. All we can do now is live for Leah. Maybe this will make us more empathetic towards our patients. Maybe now you will call your friend you haven’t made time for in ages and ask if they’re doing okay. Call your parents and tel them you love them. Don’t hold grudges. Life’s too short. At the last conference when the discussion of finding your “niche” in emergency medicine came up, Leah turned to me and said “Ala, I don’t have a nice in emergency medicine. I want my niche to be life. I just want to be good at life.” Leah lived her life to the fullest. I love you, Leah.
Dr. Alejandra Laverne
Her smile healed patients
We’ve only known Leah for a brief part of her life but what we knew and shared was extraordinary.
Going through a medical residency is not easy. It is stress, fatigue, sickness and sadness, all in an attempt to save lives. Your emotional armor is tested daily. You have good days and bad days. But I honestly can’t remember Leah having a bad day. I’m sure she did- we all do- but Leah’s unending positive attitude made her beloved by every faculty member and resident with whom she shared a shift. Leah set the curve with her warm demeanor, eagerness to improve, and her wide-eyed enthusiasm for seeing the next medical conundrum coming through the door. She was the emotional cheerleader of our program: always there to help cheer up a classmate who had a rough shift, and always able to make her supervising physicians smile.
Leah’s smile, that infectious, continuous, ear-to-ear smile: you can’t help but smile back. Her smile healed patients- particularly pediatric patients. She would put a sick or injured child at ease in seconds. This was Leah’s gift. She loved kids. She founds true joy in making a child feel better. She found her niche and was the best at it.
As physicians, we are supposed to be used to death. It’s a daily occurrence. As Ala wrote in a letter she shared with us, “I am an ER doc, I deal with death at all ages all the time. But this is different. This is Leah.” We aren’t supposed to lose one of our own, someone so young. Because of the long hours and stresses we endure in training and during our careers, we develop very special bonds, friendships that last a lifetime. Leah created those bonds with everyone she touched.
We all know that Leah would not want this to be a purely sad occasion. Leah was all about hope, and we need to carry that hope forward as we remember her. I believe the best way to honor Leah is to channel her positive energy. To paraphrase commentator Aaron Freeman, “the first law of thermodynamics states that no energy is created in the universe and non is destroyed.” Leah’s energy lives on, as it must. We need Leah’s energy to bring us through this tragedy and beyond. Leah’s positive energy will be there when we have the next bad case, when our empathy is wearing thin. We all have negative thoughts at work, particularly in the Emergency Department. The next time that happens, we should take a moment and ask, “What would Leah do?” And it will undoubtedly be the right answer. Leah will continue to support each and every one of us with her hope that knows no end. And for that I say “Thank you, Leah”.
Leah, we miss you. We are grateful to have had you in our lives. Your warmth, enthusiasm and smile will forever be held in our hearts. Your strength will become our strength. Your endless hope will become our hope. We love you.
Dr. Brad Bunney
“It’s tough, but Leah would be proud of you all. Don’t forget we are all here for one another… we’re with our own brown coat family.”