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Editor's Commentary on 'Joining the Fragments'

 , April 25, 2014

On July 20, 2012, a gunman stepped into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and shot with multiple firearms into the audience, spraying bullets into unsuspecting bodies amid a cloud of tear gas.

On July 20, 2012, Daphne Lo, in her own cloud of exhaustion, stepped into the Emergency Department where she met the traffic jam of bumper to bumper gurneys carrying the wounded from the theater massacre. The attending calls out, “Just start seeing people, anyone.”

The early narrator of Lo’s stunning piece “Joining the Fragments” carries the weight of great disillusionment. “My nascent medical career was shaped more by my failure to right the injustices of a fractured healthcare system than my ability to help my fellow man.” Lo refers to her failure and to the healthcare system injustice with generality, as if to say that the problems with healthcare are monolithic—so vast that a second year resident must feel she has arrived at the base of a large mountain, and looking up, cannot even imagine the cold rock’s peak. Her focus then narrows upon a boy, and on the neat, small hole through which a bullet took an improbable and fortuitous path through his abdomen. And it is as though, in tracing that bullet’s trajectory, like a fresh worm hole through an ancient stone, Lo glimpses for herself an equally improbable pathway toward hope. 

“Just start seeing people” may very well be Lo’s rhetorical hinge here. The essay itself takes a collage form, a discontinuous narrative in which the situation and the story are fragmented. The reader joins Lo on her float night in the ED and volleys back and forth from scenes in the chaotic ED to calm and measured introspective prose from a new narrator who gradually finds her voice—part witness-part interlocutor with a clarion call to all who are in the medical profession. “Joining the Fragments” is a heart-rending testimony of transformation from disillusionment to hope, using the most unexpected hook—tragedy. 

“Despite the cracks, there are times when even a broken system can cobble itself together and soothe the physical and emotional wounds of humanity. We rush to natural disasters to help strangers mend and rebuild.” 


Rachel Hammer