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June 1, 2022

A moment of crisis': How doctors responded to the Texas school shooting

Daily Briefing

    In the hours following a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, a "symphony" of first responders and mental health professionals from across the region mobilized to aid victims and their families.

    The shooting and medical response

    Last Tuesday, a gunman killed 19 children and two adults when he opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

    According to Ronald Stewart, a senior trauma surgeon who treated victims at University Hospital, it was "go time" from the moment four patients arrived at the hospital.

    "We didn't know how many patients we were going to get," Stewart said, calling the coordinated response that followed the shooting a "symphony of people." 

    After the shooting, victimswere also taken to other hospitals in the area, including the Brooke Army Medical Center, as first responders mobilized to quickly prepare operating rooms, blood banks, and other vital services.

    Medical professionals quickly worked together to form a mutual aid response that spanned the entire region. Mental health care professionals who were brought in to help comfort victims and their families, and medical facilities around the area mobilized to send donor blood to Uvalde, NBC News reports.

    "It's a moment of crisis with a lifetime of impact," Stewart said, while emphasizing that trauma survivors, specifically children who experience trauma at an early age, often suffer chronic health issues as adults.

    'How can anyone tell us that it's not our problem?'

    Following the shooting, many health care professionals spoke out against gun violence, calling it an urgent pediatric public health emergency, NBC News reports.

    Bindi Naik-Mathuria, a pediatric surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine, spoke about the damage assault rifles can do to a child's body.

    "It's not just the hole you see on the outside. It's a huge blast effect," Naik-Mathuria said. "You see completely shredded organs. Vessels are completely disrupted. There's no way to salvage them."

    For this reason, Naik-Mathuria has vehemently proclaimed that the issue of gun violence is "very much our lane." 

    "We have our hands inside these people, these children, trying to save them," she said. "How can anyone tell us that it's not our problem?"

    Since the shooting in Uvalde, medical professionals around the country are once again speaking out with the hashtag #ThisIsOurLane, which first gained traction in 2018 in the wake of two mass shootings.

    According to NBC News, the social media campaign gained popularity afterthe National Rifle Association tweeted "someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane," in reaction to several medical reports on gun violence.

    "People will say to me, you need to stay out of politics. Just be a doctor, just be a pediatrician," said Mark Kline, the physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital New Orleans, referencing individuals on social media, as well as his fellow pediatricians. "This is a case of children dying preventable deaths, and that's our lane, as pediatricians. We are duty bound to prevent children from dying unnecessarily."

    "We've already treated more children with bullet wounds this year than any other year," said Chethan Sathya, a pediatric trauma surgeon and the director of the Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Northwell Health.

    Notably, Sathya said he and his colleagues have seen a "big spike in gun violence compared to prior years."

    "That's of course going to directly be felt and seen by front-line workers at the hospitals," he said. (Lozano, NBC News, 5/26; Edwards, NBC News, 5/26)

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