From scene to ED, medical staff made 'life-saving choices' in Tucson

The New York Times last week detailed the "life-saving choices" made by medical staff at the scene and at University Medical Center (UMC) in the hours following the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this month.

On Jan. 8, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire on a "Congress on Your Corner" event held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) at a Tucson Safeway supermarket. Nineteen people were shot in the incident, including Giffords, and six died, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

The first responder on the scene, paramedic Tony Compagno, immediately triaged patients, according to the Times. Of the 19 shooting victims, Compagno quickly determined that seven were "immediates" in need of urgent care and directed medical teams to victims. "The goal was to stabilize them and get them to the hospital as quickly as possible, because people with severe gunshot wounds need trauma surgeons," the Times notes.

Ten patients were brought to the UMC trauma center. The Times highlights efforts made by trauma surgeons to save the nine-year-old victim's life and the collaboration of surgeons who worked to save several other patients, including Giffords. Randall Friese, the trauma surgeon treating Giffords, recounts calling the chief of neurosurgery, who had the day off, despite the presence of another neurosurgeon ready to operate, saying "I felt like I was doing a courtesy to the chief of neurosurgery letting him know the political aspect of what was going on."

According to Peter Rhee, the director of UMC's trauma center, "much fortune occurred out of luck. It was a sunny day, a Saturday, there was no rain or snow, it wasn't 4 a.m. If it had been a Tuesday at 4 a.m., we would have had one surgeon there." Rhee coordinated the mass casualty, ensuring that all patients were properly accounted for.

Giffords responds well to latest surgery

UMC surgeons say that Giffords is responding well to an operation over the weekend that repaired damage to her eye socket, the Los Angeles Times reports. Giffords was awake within a few hours of the surgery and returned to the same level of interaction where she was prior to the procedure (Grady/Medina, New York Times, 1/14; Maugh, Los Angles Times, 1/18).