“A complex trauma patient is a complication waiting to happen,” Dr. Tyroch said.
And the suffering doesn’t end when survivors of such shootings go home, researchers have found.
“If they leave the hospital alive, we claim we saved them,” said Dr. George Velmahos, chief of trauma surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who was part of a team that treated victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. But years later many “still live with devastating pain or other problems, or PTSD. The long-term impact is really tremendous.”
The hospital staff will not be spared, either. As desperate patients arrived, the doctors and nurses set aside their emotions, Dr. McLean said.
The next day, as she and Dr. Tovar made rounds and spoke to patients, staff members were in tears. “It’s unreal what these patients went through,” she said. “It’s really shocking.”
Dr. Tyroch managed to maintain his composure until, driving home, he saw a familiar billboard: El Paso Strong. His emotions welled.
Dr. Weber barely made it to the privacy of her car late Saturday afternoon before the sobs came.
“There is a sense of relief when they say, ‘O.K., there aren’t going to be any more victims’ — that’s the first time you take a deep breath,” she said.
“Then you go home and you cry and you pray and you hug your loved ones.”
Some of her colleagues may struggle with post-traumatic stress, Dr. Weber fears. “Doctors and nurses are not immune,” she said. “We see trauma and very traumatic deaths every day. But we don’t see 14 people in an hour, thank God.”
“What has to change?” she asked. “We have to do something. Why aren’t we?”
Sarah Mervosh contributed reporting from El Paso.