The past weekend’s attack in Las Vegas dominated headlines this week, as investigators struggled to piece together a motive for the shooting that claimed 59 lives and injured nearly 500 more. And outside Las Vegas, the nation reeled as it came to grips with the horrors that had unfolded.
But as the chaos slowly faded, stories began emerging—stories of those in the line of fire (many of them nurses) who risked everything for the strangers around them. And in the hospitals and trauma centers around the city, nurses stepped up to save as many lives as they could.
Amber Ratto, a paramedic, recalled driving back onto the concert grounds following the shooting, not yet sure whether the violence had ended, but knowing there were too many victims to stay put. “I turned off the lights in the back of the ambulance to not be targets,” she recounts. She and her crew then worked to triage the victims—treating the wounded, and placing blankets over the dead.
Among those helping was a nurse identified only as Vanessa, who told local news station KTNV why she left safety to return to the danger zone. “We went back because I’m a nurse and I just felt that I had to,” she explained. “I went to three different scenes. The first one was OK. The second one was worse. And by the time I got to the third one, there was just dead bodies…”
But even in the middle of tragedy, Vanessa recognized the extraordinary effort happening around her. “There was so many people, just normal citizens, doctors, cops, paramedics, nurses, just off-duty,” she said. “Everyone was just communicating and working together. It was completely horrible, but it was absolutely amazing to see all of those people come together.”
Nurses weren’t immune to the attack, of course. One 43-year old nurse, Natalie Vanderstay, was hit by gunfire during the attack. However, despite fear and shock, her training kicked in, and she managed to treat her own gunshot wound before being taken to a trauma center by a cab driver.
In the hospitals, shooting victims began arriving any way that they could—by car, taxi, ambulance, or truck—and every nurse available was called in to help. One nurse, Toni Mullan, returned to the hospital immediately following her 12-hour shift to help treat patients alongside her daughter, a trauma nurse at the same hospital.
“The minute I got there, I looked at the situation and said ‘How am I going to utilize my resources?’ ” Ms. Mullan tells the New York Times. By the end of the night, 104 patients had arrived. The situation may have looked chaotic to anyone looking in from the outside, Toni explained, but in actuality, much was being accomplished. At one point, five trauma patients were being “clocked in” simultaneously. And even the patients who did not have life-threatening injuries were treated quickly by doctors.
“I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and this was by far the worst moment I’ve had, the worst injuries,” she said. “But it was the proudest moment.”
Another first-hand account of what went on in the Las Vegas hospitals can be seen here, along with video of the response.
Ratto, the paramedic, said she was still processing the horror but felt proud. “So many died but we saved so many. I feel lucky. I have the best co-workers in the entire world.”
If you’d like to help victims of the Las Vegas attacks, CNN has listed several resources here. And if you’d like more information about beginning your own nursing training, contact Unitek College today.