'A horrible sight': French hospitals treat hundreds in wake of deadly attacks

Doctors on vacation rushed to help

A devastating series of terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday killed at least 129 people and sent hundreds more to local hospitals, where doctors worked to treat harrowing injuries usually seen in war zones.

Three teams of terrorists attacked six locations in Paris, including a popular concert venue and a stadium holding a soccer match. The attackers reportedly wore explosive vests and used automatic weapons during the attacks.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Saturday that at least 129 people were killed. On Sunday, officials with Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris (APHP)—the authority which runs the city's public hospital system—said 10 hospitals treated 415 victims, 218 of whom had been discharged.

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More than 150 patients were said to be in critical condition as of Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Hospitals respond

APHP activated its "plan blanc" emergency response plan on Friday, which mobilized health workers across the city. Police also set up checkpoints for added security.

The first victims began arriving at Georges Pompidou European Hospital at about 2 a.m. Philippe Juvin, the head of the hospital's ED, returned to work about two hours after the attacks began. He told the Associated Press that the first thing he did was send patients who didn't need emergency care home and triage patients with less serious wounds to smaller facilities.

Juvin, who spent time working with French troops as an anesthesiologist in Afghanistan, says victims looked like they were from a warzone. "The majority were gunshot wounds inflicted with weapons of war, of high caliber, in the thorax, the abdomen, their legs and arms," he said.

A surgeon at Lariboisière Hospital said, "Most of the injured people had through-and-through bullet wounds; it was a horrible sight." As of Sunday, eight of the hospitals 12 OR's were filled by patients injured during the attacks.

Many victims also showed signs of psychological trauma. "The people that witness these kinds of events are deeply affected, even if some may not be physically injured, it hurts their soul," Juvin said, noting that a psychiatrist was brought in to assist.

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Dominique Pateron, head of the ED at Hôpital Saint-Antoine, said some patients were in shock. "They're not expressing any normal emotions."

Taking action

On Saturday, France's blood bank called for donations. According to the Wall Street Journal, people responded "en masse" and the blood bank met its demand by midday.

As of Saturday, none of the 50 victims treated at Georges Pompidou had died, something Juvin says is partly the result of doctors in the area—including some visiting Paris on vacation—offering to help.

The youth and good health of many victims also helped save lives, Juvin says. "Waiting one hour or two when you're wounded but young is less uncomfortable than when you're old and sick."

But for many survivors, the road to recovery will be long and difficult. Doctors speaking with Agence France-Presse cited Philippe Lançon, a survivor of the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, who has undergone 13 operations on his injured jaw (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo News, 11/15; Beauchamp et al., Vox, 11/15; Petrequin, AP/Washington Post, 11/14; Chow, Wall Street Journal, 11/14; Breeden, New York Times, 11/15; Mullen et al., CNN, 11/16).

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