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Health Care

How A City With One Trauma Center Mobilized Care for Waves of Victims

"This is something we have been planning for over 20 years, and unfortunately it occurred," said one surgeon.

Soon after the rampage began at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, emergency responders arrived at the scene to treat the wounded.

CBS reported that dispatchers could not get ambulances to the nightclub quickly enough to meet the rising number of casualties, which included 53 wounded.

One bystander helped a victim make his way to the emergency in a police cruiser.

After the initial attack, 44 of the injured were rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC), central Florida’s only Level I trauma center, located five minutes away from the club. Eleven victims, suffering from less serious injuries, were sent to the emergency room at Florida Hospital Orlando (FHO).

ORMC hospital was temporarily placed on lockdown as doctors scrambled to simultaneously treat the onslaught of patients suffering from gunshot wounds.

ORMC surgeons performed surgeries on 26 of the victims in the early morning. ABC news reported that nine of the patients died at ORMC, while two others passed at FHO.

Law enforcement and health officials urged local residents to donate blood on Sunday morning, citing an urgent need for O negative, O positive, and AB plasma donations. By Sunday afternoon, blood banks were so overwhelmed by the response that they began turning donors away.

ORMC’s emergency response was one the facility regularly rehearses. They called in an additional six trauma surgeons to care for the waves of shooting victims. Dr. Michael Cheatham, the center’s lead trauma surgeon, said he and his team “see a lot of gunshot wounds, but nothing to this scale.”

[Photo: AP Phelan M. Ebenhack]