A 6-year-old boy with abnormal pupils and gasping for breath. A 26-year-old pregnant woman with a gunshot wound to her abdomen. A 54-year-old male with blood pouring from a wound in his thigh.
Now add 43 more patients.
Imagine you are the paramedic at this scene. Who do you take to the hospital first? Who do you have to choose to walk past and leave at the scene while you take your patient to the hospital?
Now imagine you are the surgeon. You walk into an emergency room with blood everywhere — covering faces, limbs, the floors. There is a cacophony of sound: screams, cries, gasps, whimpers. Where do you start? Which room and which patient gets your attention first? How many patients, calling out to you for help, do you have to pass by? What operation will you perform and how will you perform it knowing there are nearly 50 other patients needing your attention at that very same moment? Will you be right? Will you save everyone you could?
As a trauma surgeon, these are the real types of questions that we are given when training for mass casualty situations. And although the patient specifics listed above are not from the shooting, these are still the same thoughts that every single health care worker and all six trauma surgeons in Orlando right now have had and will continue to have for months to come.
26 operations in 12 hours. I wish I could adequately describe the inhuman and superhuman effort that this represents from the trauma surgeons at Orlando Health, one of whom has been a friend of mine since high school. When I first heard the news, I immediately contacted him, letting him know I was thinking of him and his team, knowing exactly that this day will never leave him, or any of them. I have written before describing the multitude of feelings involved when losing a patient, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when discussing a situation of this magnitude.
After the adrenaline surge, after the floors are mopped, the scrubs are changed, and the patients sorted through, they will pick apart this day — every last detail, decision, and action will be analyzed, examined, and questioned — and never forgotten by a single person who touched a patient on June 12th, 2016.
These six trauma surgeons have made a thousand decisions in the past 24 hours: The types of decisions that no one should ever have to make, but are unfortunately faced more and more by those of us in this field.
To the surgeons at Orlando Health: I know you haven’t slept. I know you haven’t eaten. I know you haven’t sat down in close to 30 hours. I know you are mad, I know you are sad. Stay strong my friends; we are all with you.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, the first responders and health care workers in Orlando. #lovewins.
Jamie Jones is a trauma surgeon who blogs at Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, & a Scalpel.
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