EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso doctors who treated patients from the Aug. 3 Walmart mass shooting remembered what they felt when they received the first emergency calls that day.
“I remember the first thing that immediately went through my mind was that we would have to take care of many patients in a rapid period of time,” said Dr. Susan McLean, the trauma and critical care doctor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.
McLean was on call that day as the surgical ICU director at University Medical Center.
The Medical Director of Trauma at Del Sol Medical Center, Dr. Stephen Flaherty, said his unit quickly braced for the dozens of patients.
“How do I get ready to take care of a large number of seriously injured people all at once,” Dr. Flaherty said.
The medical staff looked back on their fight to save nearly two dozen lives.
“For hours, I was thinking what do I do next, what do I do next, what do I do next,” McLean said.
In all, UMC treated 15 victims. McLean said UMC had gone through extensive tr
“The response to a massive casualty event does not start the day of the event and it does not end the day of the event we have multiple avenues to prepare us, we have mock casualty events and we actually had a similar one just months before this had happened,” McLean said.
However, she didn’t think they’d need to use that training.
“Not even a week before I was watching the news on the big shooting even in Gilroy, California and I thought to myself that is really tragic but that will probably never happen in El Paso,” McLean said.
Del Sol is the nearest trauma center to the Cielo Vista Walmart.
Just 10 months before the shootings, the hospital rehearsed a similar mock mass casualty involving gunshot wounds.
“I think we were prepared and I don’t think there’s anything else better we could’ve done to help the citizens of El Paso,” Flaherty said.
Doctors said at the time their focus was all on the medicine and saving lives, but once the adrenaline slowed, they mourned with the rest of El Paso.
“I sent a text to my friend and colleague, Dr. Alan Tyroch, at UMC and said now we’re both part of the club we never want to be part of, trauma medical directors who have led a trauma center through a mass shooting event,” Flaherty said.
For McLean, it was visiting the makeshift memorial the community created behind the Walmart that helped her reflect.
“I think that gave me time to reflect I felt like it was very somber, I think that’s to me where it really hit home just how many people had been affected,” Dr. McLean said.