“A calmness throughout the chaos:” Sunrise Hospital staff share their experience after Las Vegas shooting

Outline of Las Vegas skyline with #VegasStrong

Earlier this week, we awoke to the news of yet another tragedy. This time in the American “City of Lights” – Las Vegas. It was there that a shooting occurred at an outdoor music festival that killed at least 58 people, injured hundreds more and sent approximately 200 victims – by all mode of transportation – to affiliate Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, the closest trauma center to the concert site.

Doctors, nurses and support staff responded to Sunrise in droves. One hundred and twenty patients with gunshot wounds received care; all 30 operating rooms were activated and operated throughout the night and following day; and, in all, more than 80 operations were performed. Sunrise CEO Todd Sklamberg called it “an unprecedented response to an unprecedented tragedy.”

However, the Sunrise staff answered the call as they always do with compassion, character and a calm under intense pressure. In the aftermath of the now deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, the caregivers have stepped forward to share publicly a piece of their experience.

Take a look at 27 of their most notable quotes below.

(on the response from caregivers at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center)

“We had multiple volunteers from nurses to EDS staff to registration to physicians to surgeons to nurse practitioners all responding to the emergency department within the hour to provide additional help. – Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. Scott Scherr on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360

(on the scene at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center the night of the shooting)

“I think, the most important thing that I felt and saw that night was a calmness throughout the chaos. We knew we just had to remain calm, take care of the patients, triage and keep going. Obviously, at some point, it became just space. If there was a hallway space, a patient went there, if there was an empty chair, a patient went there. – Administrative Director of Emergency Services Dorita Sondereker on CBS Evening News

“There was blood everywhere. People screaming. Various gunshot wounds to the head, chest, neck, abdomen, pelvis. They were coming in in pick-up trucks, cars…civilians in the city were bringing people in. They were here before the ambulances got here.  Everybody was here. The housekeepers were transporting people. We had everybody in the hospital. It was amazing. All hands on deck.” – Trauma Surgeon Dr. Allen McIntyre on TODAY

“All of a sudden, the dam broke open and a rush of people like gunshots and everything. You just realize, oh my god, this is horrific.” – Nurse Rudy Espinoza on Inside Edition

“I just saw complete dedication. Dedication to making sure that they did everything they could for those patients and their families.” Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center Human Resources Manager Nicole Rietz told Buzzfeed

“Organized chaos, is what comes to mind. Over 150 people – nurses, doctors, secretaries, everybody and patients everywhere. Noise, lots of noise, the smell of blood…organized chaos at that time. – Anesthesiologist Dr. Stephanie Davidson, who appeared on CNN International with husband and Pediatric General Surgeon Dr. Nicholas Fiore

“Oh, there’s no question about that. This is something of a different order. In the emergency room area, it was a little bit like the eye of the hurricane. I mean, there were so many people there, so many patients to be cared for but it was done in a rather organized fashion. Everyone was there to do their part.” – Pediatric General Surgeon Dr. Nicholas Fiore, who appeared on CNN International with his wife and Anesthesiologist Dr. Stephanie Davidson

“Head trauma after head trauma, nonstop. So until I left that morning, didn’t even stop to think about, you know, what is actually going on because it was just patient after patient and it was pretty horrific.”  – Nurse Keesha Marmande on Inside Edition

A group of hospital caregivers standing in front of TV cameras

Sunrise Hospital surgical services team recall efforts to save lives on Inside Edition. 

(on how you were able to respond to this mass casualty event)

“We had our system set up so a lot of our ER physicians triage a patient – which ones were the least ill to the most critically ill, who needed surgery right away. They refer those patients then to my group of trauma surgeons that got those patients back to the operating room. We had a huge response from orthopedic, neurosurgery, cardiovascular surgeons, the pediatric surgeons came and just helped us, even though we didn’t have peds patients, just to get those surgeries going and get those patients right back to the operating room.” – Director of Trauma Services Dr. Christopher Fisher on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

(on the first person you treated that night)

“He was this young man, he had a hat on. And he had a tourniquet on his arm. He was shot in his elbow and his arm. The victim kept saying he was fine, even though he could barely move his hand.” But over and over, the man asked about his girlfriend. – Rapid Response Team Nurse Jon Dimaya told Buzzfeed

“What stuck out to me was probably my first patient of the night. I literally didn’t even meet the guy, see the guy’s face. He was just on the operating table, ready to go when I walked in the room.” – Director of Trauma Services Dr. Christopher Fisher told NPR

(on victims supporting each other)

“The patients actually said, “he’s hurt more than I am. I’m going to go back here and let them have my bed.” – Administrative Director of Emergency Services Dorita Sondereker on CBS Evening News

(on if it was all hands on deck and how to prepare for an event like this)

“He’s (Dr. Nicholas Fiore) a pediatric general surgeon and he was operating on adults so we definitely utilized all of our resources. So yes, you have disaster plans, you have disaster drills but nothing can really prepare you for any disaster, whether it be a six-car pileup or what we dealt with. We stuck with our plan as much as we could. We deviated from our plan when we needed to, with the goal being, always take care of our patients and care for ourselves to make sure we could maintain care for our patients.” – Anesthesiologist Dr. Stephanie Davidson on HLN’s MichaeLA

(on how the trauma team handled the influx of patients)

“There’s no paper charts prepared for all those patients. No documentation, so literally they just write on the patient. Just write where the wounds are.” – Director of Trauma Services Dr. Christopher Fisher told NPR

(on pediatric surgeons jumping in to operate on adult victims)

“It was really all hands on deck. There were about 30 surgical sub-specialists that were called in and we dealt with the gunshot wounds, in particular, I helped with a woman who was shot in the collarbone. She was clearly shot from above and the bullet went through her left collarbone, barely missing her blood vessels. Initially, we treated her in the emergency room and actually, Dr. (Stephanie) Davidson, put a breathing tube in her to secure her airway. And then ultimately she went on to have scans and off to the operating room after those scans demonstrated a potential injury to those blood vessels in the area. And I was there for that procedure as well.” – Pediatric General Surgeon Dr. Nicholas Fiore, who appeared on CNN International with his wife and Anesthesiologist Dr. Stephanie Davidson

(on the workarounds that you came up with to save lives)

“You know, that’s the thing about our hospital, we are — we are resilient, we’re very flexible. Our team, you know, that night came together and, you know, they — I threw some crazy ideas at people and everyone decided that they would come along with it. We put gurney’s side by side. We had patients who were the walking wounded, the green tags, they sat on the floor or on chairs and we stuffed them into a room. We had the nurse watching over them to look for the ones who could potentially get worse and sick…go from just being a green to a yellow or potentially a red. Some of the workarounds also that we did, we took all of the blood out of our blood banks and we had it ready for us. So the second that we asked for blood, it was hung within seconds, which, you know, that saved lives. Being able to do things instantaneously or nearly instantaneously, “breaking rules” that we normally don’t do, that’s what was allowed us to save as many lives as we did that night.” – Emergency Room Physician Dr. Kevin Menes on CNN International with Isha Sesay

(on when you were able to pause)

“Probably 24 hours later. I probably had a break in there to get something to eat about halfway through. We started to break some of the guys that we knew that were going to be on the next day to help clean up with the surgery, to start dividing our staff up. I think everyone went solid that first 16 hours then we started to give people some relief.” – Director of Trauma Services Dr. Christopher Fisher on MSNBC’s The Last Word

Male doctor being interviewed by male TV show host in front of camera crew

Dr. Fisher describes the aftermath of the shooting on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. 

(on family members locating their loved ones)

“We at Sunrise had the response of every single one of our executive staff, leadership staff, everyone was there. There was command centers that I didn’t even realize had been set up at different points of the hospital where they did exactly that. They figured out who people were, every person who came in, I don’t even want to call them a patient, every person that came in, we didn’t know anything about. They couldn’t give us their name, a lot of people didn’t have ID. They didn’t have their cell phones because they just left. So there was a process in place, and we did it. Everybody was identified and able to be taken care of. Family members that showed up later were reunited. Phone calls that were come in, people were told and the information was appropriately given to the right, correct family members.” – Anesthesiologist Dr. Stephanie Davidson on HLN’s MichaeLA

(on when the magnitude of the tragedy sunk in)

“I wasn’t overwhelmed. Until I left the hospital. Once I started walking out and leaving, you realize everything just hits you like a ton of bricks.” – Nurse Robert Erickson on Inside Edition

(on the communication between doctors and patients after the tragedy)

“We are getting to meet them for the first time—what are their names, where they are from. We knew nothing about them other than gunshot wound to the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis.” – Medical Director Dr. Dave Macintyre to Wall Street Journal

(on how this tragedy impacted you)

“It has only made me more proud of my community to think that total strangers are lining up six hours outside of the blood banks, you know, to donate blood. To see the outpouring of food and support that has been coming to the hospital, even to these blood banks. That’s the part of this community that people don’t see. You know, they see the glitz and glamour of the strip. They don’t get to see this side that I know, that I’ve seen. It’s amazing.” – Emergency Room Physician Dr. Kevin Menes on CNN International with Isha Sesay

(on what has surprised you from this event)

“One thing that surprised me was seeing a lot of these people that were shot and things and families, is how well they handled it. And that, to me, is amazing.” – Emergency Room Physician Dr. Jason Katz on CBS Evening News  

(on how many people may have died without care that night)

“Can’t even quantify that. The job that our staff did, physicians, nurses, volunteers, ancillary staff, it was just absolutely amazing. The response that we got, we had 100 physicians show up that night after they were called. We had 100 nurses.” – Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. Scott Scherr on Fox News’ Hannity

Three male hospital caregivers appearing on TV news segment with show host

Drs. Scott Scherr and Kevin Menes share their experience from inside Sunrise Hospital on Hannity.  

(on what kept you going)

“What kept us going, we heard what the community was doing, bringing food and water and offering anything and everything. And, in a way, it was just this charge to that adrenaline that we had going, and this sense of serving our people that were doing everything they could, that couldn’t be in the emergency department or the operating room. They were doing everything they could, so we were doing everything we could. – Anesthesiologist Dr. Stephanie Davidson, who appeared on CNN International with her husband and Pediatric General Surgeon Dr. Nicholas Fiore

(on how to care for staff in the coming days)

“Thank you for asking. And we’re bringing in some counselors to help us work with our staff. And we’ll continue to focus on that and give the staff the time they need to recover and to heal from this.” – Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky on NPR

Female nurse petting two comfort dogs

Comfort dogs visit patients and staff at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. 

(on how people feel along the Las Vegas strip)

“Those who are victims of this heinous crime, those who have lost loved ones, they’re heartbroken. There’s nothing I could’ve done, that I could do at this point to make this any better. I wish I could’ve. My team wishes that they could’ve also. We did everything that we could to save those that did come in. But of the ones that did come in, and that we did save, which were a large percentage of the ones that were injured, that makes our hospital very proud. Of these 200 plus patients that came in within the first six hours, they had done 28 damage control surgeries, which are surgeries intended to stop the bleeding. So within that six to eight hour period, the majority, almost, I’d say 80 percent of them, were either up in the ICU, in through surgery, or discharged home in that short time period. That’s a testament to how amazing Sunrise Hospital is and how the staff is, for being the only level 2 trauma center on Maryland Parkway. That is an amazing feat.” – Emergency Room Physician Dr. Kevin Menes on BBC News

(on what you take away from this tragedy)

“How horrific this was and the evil that’s out there. And, number two, the sense of humanity that was shared with our community, with the caregivers that, you know, came in to help. And last night I, when I got home, I had tears. I had tears of joy, of pride, of our team and our community, and tears of sadness.” –  Director of Emergency Medicine Dr. Scott Scherr on CBS Evening News

Our heartfelt condolences go out to all involved in the Las Vegas shooting. We are grateful for the first responders, civilians, and caregivers at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and its sister hospitals, Southern Hills Hospital and MountainView Hospital that cared for the victims of this tragic event.  

Two hospital caregivers meeting with a female patient in hospital bed surrounded by family members

Dr. Christopher Fisher visits with his patient Natalia and her loved ones. 

Comfort dogs lined up in hospital hallway

Comfort dogs ready to help survivors, families and staff at Sunrise. 

A therapy dog licking a person's hands

Therapy dog Haley brightens someone’s day at Sunrise Hospital.

A group of hospital caregivers with members of the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team

MountainView Hospital Graduate Medical Education physicians lend a hand at Sunrise, while the National Hockey League Golden Knights also paid a visit. 

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center entrance sign with graphic saying Vegas Strong


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HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

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