Committed to Care: Trauma nurse reflects on 17 hours with Vegas victim

Female nurse with arms folded and smiling

Trinette Dixon was at the center of a “silent orchestra” of nurses at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas that treated more than 200 patients in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Her 17-year career in nursing culminated in 17 hours of care to one patient. That patient survived.

After working a 12-hour shift in the trauma unit at Sunrise, Trinette, a trauma surgical intensive care unit nurse, headed home to her family before receiving a text from the hospital nearly three hours later requesting all hands on deck.

“As a trauma nurse, I’ve received texts like that a couple of times throughout my career,” she said, “and usually, patients end up getting dispersed to different hospitals. So, when we arrive, there will be a couple of patients and a ton of nurses.”

Still, Trinette hurriedly got dressed and packed a bag for her daughter, who she left with a friend.

She drove toward the hospital, expecting to see sirens and fire trucks, instead it was eerily silent. Until she reached the Sunrise parking garage, where she soon realized “this is real.” (Many of the victims were transported to Sunrise – the closest hospital to the Las Vegas strip – by personal vehicles.)

“I didn’t know much of anything yet,” Trinette says of the Oct. 1 shooting that killed at least 58 and injured hundreds more. “All I knew was that there were a lot of victims in my unit. I was in my own little cocoon trying to do one thing for one person.”

That person was Rachel Sheppard, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and stomach, and was losing blood – lots of it and fast. For the next 17 hours, Trinette stayed with Rachel, providing the life-saving care that would ultimately see her through.

“Blood products, medicines, minute by minute, constantly watching every vital sign, every change in heart rate and blood pressure; tweaking this and that,” Trinette recalled. “The reason she is alive is because of the way we were able to quickly get the blood and get it in.”

There were so many hands to make sure this was a success story, Trinette says. Laura Havins, an ICU nurse, is one of those hands.

“I could not have run the whole room and went back and forth to the blood bank,” Trinette says of Laura, who did just that. “She was mine and Rachel’s ‘knight in shining armor.’”

At 6 a.m. the next day, approximately 8 hours after the shooting, Rachel woke up from surgery.

“I can’t believe she’s waking up,” Trinette wrote in a journal for her daughter. “I see beautiful, sparkling blue-green eyes trying to focus on me. I say, ‘Hi, beauty. You’re in the hospital and out of surgery.’ She looks at me, around her life support tube, and mouths the word, “’water.’”

“That made us press harder,” Trinette said. “I’m like, ‘I’m not quitting. Let’s go.’ I was so motivated by her will.”

Trinette worked more than 17 hours that day and contends she could have worked three days in a row. Don’t mistake her for a hero though, she says. She and her fellow nurses work like that all of the time. It’s just not at the same time, she says.

“I call us the silent orchestra because we’ve done it for so long together. On any given day, we’re all helping each other, silently working so hard on our patients. We all knew what to do. It was just the quantity that was so mind-boggling that day,” she said.

“I never think we’re heroes. We’re just on the planet to provide these gifts to mankind,” she said. “The true heroes are the people who donated blood in our city. That’s what I figured out at the end of this. They are the reason Rachel is alive. They are the heroes…and they don’t even know it.”

Watch the following story to see Trinette and the team whose Commitment to Care saw Rachel Sheppard recover and walk out of Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. HCA Healthcare internal audience can view the video here

To help us celebrate the exceptional experiences happening every day at HCA Healthcare affiliates, we’ve created a video series called, “Committed to Care.” Being committed to care is a reflection of HCA Healthcare’s mission – we are committed to the care and improvement of human life – and a calling that has shaped our company from its earliest days.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 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.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

Recent articles