In the 1960’s & 70’s when I worked in hospitals and later spent a dozen years in the offices of three busy pediatricians, I don’t recall anyone talking about more than a stray, accidental gunshot wound. Occasionally an unfortunate child found a loaded gun at home to play with.
In Portland Oregon at the Medical School where I began my working career, the large complex comprised of med school, county hospital, children’s hospital, TB hospital, research center, and lock-up ward. It was a trauma hospital. But I worked as a Medical Record’s Technician. However, the entire hospital and almost all workers participated in triage drills about three times a year. Those of us not doctors, nurses, interns or residents (baby docs as they were called) were assigned to be victims. Attention was paid to excessive burns, limb injuries, head injuries, etc. The big concern as I recall was planning for an influx of patients if Mount Hood erupted. Or if some extensive group of cars collided in the fog, or to a lesser degree when the fleet landed for the yearly Rose Festival Parade a few times groups of sailors went crazy in bar fights causing cuts and bruises.
For our triage events we worker bees received tags that told us what injury we were to present, and we were schooled to answer initial questions as we honestly thought we would should we be a victim.
What I felt it taught all of us was to be calm in the face of an emergency. Luckily in all of the years I worked at the medical school, no huge trauma befell us.
Later, in Seattle Washington I worked as a medical transcriptionist at Swedish Hospital, also a trauma center. Our big looming concern was that we’d have to one day deal with a massive earthquake. As in Oregon a mountain could erupt. Like Oregon, our triage practices mostly centered on crushed heads or limbs. I remember once I was tagged as having a severe asthma attack. And since my youngest daughter suffered from asthma I was very familiar with symptoms. Another time I supposedly had heart problems and I was told to start out in a faint. So I was tagged as a woman much older than I was at the time, but the triage team had to assess things that might be wrong with me when I couldn’t speak. Again, I don’t think anyone I knew had to present with gunshot wounds. During my time there the hospital did intake a number of knife wounds in a two hour time-frame due to a big ruckus at a nearby juvenile detention center. Police transported a dozen boys to our hospital and another ten or so to another facility. In my years of working at either hospital, we never experienced a lockdown situation.
I began thinking back to my training and our triage sessions this month when first responders in Las Vegas spoke about the frequency of their joint triage practices to deal with huge numbers of gun violence victims. While we were taught how to use whatever was handy to stabilize a broken arm or leg our trainers glossed over where to place tourniquets to stop bleeding from the rare puncture wounds. Lacking cell phones, we had to send someone to the nearest phone booth to call for orthopedic doctors from other hospitals, etc. In cases of our earthquake drills our triage scenes were often chaotic.
I can’t even envision what a dark nightclub, theater, or park filled with people bleeding from gun wounds, some multiple would be like to quickly assess. Or to have your emergency room be forced to check in and evaluate more than a hundred victims in a short amount of time. Doctors and nurses had to be going through Herculean efforts just to decide which victims were in need of immediate surgery, who could wait, and the sheer numbers of surgery suites required for such a massive influx of injuries is unfathomable.
Even with my past experience I hate hearing of the uptick in these awful senseless shootings. And I’m sure we aren’t giving enough credit to first responders, lay helpers, and hospital staff who get hit with one of these tragedies.
I hope this doesn’t cause bad memories for anyone, but I really wanted to give a shout-out of admiration for all of the folks in countless cities who have dealt so efficiently with these traumatic events.
Thank you for this very thoughtful post, Roz, and the reminder how important medical and emergency workers are. My few experiences in emergency centres and hospital stays have always been positive and the caring, professional treatment exceptional. Both my brothers were firefighters and they had challenging experiences on the job over the years. Your own service to the community at large is commendable and I’m thinking helped to shape the person you are today.ReplyDelete
Those first responders deserve such credit! It's amazing that while most people are running away from disaster, they are running right to it. And hospital staff often get overlooked. Without them, a chaotic situation would be even worse. Thanks for the reminder. :)ReplyDelete
What a wonderful post. I just recently started working in a hospital and we haven't had a lockdown yet, but everyday in the back of my mind, I am ready and waiting.ReplyDelete
Thanks you guys, for stopping by. And thanks to Amy V. for getting my post up and with the clip-art. I'm such a duck when it comes to merging photos with my post. And Alica, my days working in hospitals and for doctors were really great experiences. Hope your job is good, too.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this post, Roz. First responders are vital to our existence. I don't know what we would do without them. I admire anyone, you included, who can so selflessly work to help others in such an important capacity. Oddly enough, I have a heroine in an upcoming book who at one time was a first responder at a horrific scene. I wish I didn't have quite so much reality to draw from. <3ReplyDelete
Roz, this was a remarkable post, and all the more so because of your vast expriences. In America, we have been blessed for over a hundred years of not being thrust into the middle of a war-zone. (The Civil War). Too many people around the world live in countries where flying bullets are a way of life. Because we depend on our first responders, our men and women in blue, we sleep at night and we go about our day quite carefree, I believe. It's not until this kind of unimaginable tragedy hits us, do we realize how very fragile our life and our lives are. From the shock at first hearing the news, to the terror that rides our backs in the hours afterward, to the tears knowing that so many families have lost their dear ones, we all are affected. Tragedies such as 911 and Las Vegas are part of our existence and they leave scars on all of us.ReplyDelete
Roz, I'm in awe. You and all the people like you who rush into danger, make split-second decisions, and care for all of us when we're at at most vunerable are true heros. Thanks you.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this, Roz. Sobering reminders all around. My son teaches in an area where gun violence is an ongoing reality and the routine around coming and going in the school revolves around keeping the kids safe every day. Unfortunately, he's had students who have lost siblings and other relatives in the many years he's taught there. I've long admired first responders in communities large and small. I truly appreciate your post.ReplyDelete
I'm so thankful for the first responders in our nation. I'll never forget the images after 911 of them running into the burning buildings. Thanks for a timely post, Roz.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your post, Roz. I was in Las Vegas last week to visit my son. There were numerous interviews on the local news with first responders who had been at the scene. Many of them seemed to be as traumatized as the victims of the shooting and said they knew it would take them a long time to recover, but they were proud to have done their jobs.ReplyDelete
Again my thanks to all who have stopped by. I can well imagine the first responders at the scene of any mass tragedy remain haunted by much of what they saw.ReplyDelete
First responders deserve so much credit. We are so fortunate to have them. It's a shame that when we think about going somewhere today there's a feeling of trepidation if there will be crowds present.ReplyDelete
Your work experience is full of twists and turns! Nice to focus on the blessed first responders after an incident. It reminds me that most of the people on scene have a good heart.ReplyDelete
I am lucky to have a varied work experience. In fact, 3 pediatricians enticed me away from Swedish hospital and I worked as their office manager for 12 years. I loved working in pediatrics, and one of our doctors was a pediatric nephrologist who was a forerunner in the kidney transplant team.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your admiration for the first responders and I join that shout-out. They are magnificent and, as Patti said, traumatized as well. My constant question is why we have our gun laws get so out of control? This Vegas shooter had equipment no civil person needs.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry to be so late posting, Roz, but I just read your message (I'm always behind). Your blog is incredible and I'm sure it took a pile of courage to write. Up until this one I've followed most of the shootings, whether mass shootings or the cops and robbers kind, but this one was beyond me. Many were posting with horror or condolences but I just couldn't do any of it. I clicked out of Facebook and didn't go back for a week. What a wuss. But it was just one two many and all I could think of was that it has to stop.ReplyDelete
So thank you for writing this post. For me it was cathartic and it also totally solidified my support for gun control. Forget that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Not this often, not to this extent because the answer to that viewpoint is, "Not if they don't have arsenals of guns to shoot."