Hospital praises EMS providers' response to Texas church shooting

Officials thanked Sutherland Springs EMS providers for helping ensure speedy treatment of the wounded

By Jacob Beltran
San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO — When a gunman opened fire on worshipers Sunday morning at First Baptist Church in a small community some 35 miles from San Antonio, staff at the University Hospital became part of the front lines treating the wounded.

For Dr. Brian Eastridge, chief of trauma and emergency surgery at University Hospital, said it brought back memories from his time as a U.S. Army surgeon.

“These types of wounds we saw are very similar to the types of wounds we saw in deployed conditions,” Eastridge said. “These are high-velocity rounds, so when they travel through tissue they … create a temporary cavity, and it causes a lot of tissue damage.”

One of the victims was an 8-year-old who came in with multiple gunshot wounds, including a major injury in the abdomen, he said.

“The efforts to save that child were heroic,” with surgeons, nurses, anesthesia and specialty staff worked for at least three hours, Eastridge said.

Despite their efforts, including multiple attempts at CPR, the damage proved to be too much and the child died during surgery, he said.

“Seeing an injured kid, particularly an injured child in your community, it’s gut-wrenching,” Eastridge said.

Overall, the hospital received four children and five adults from First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Other wounded were sent to Brooke Army Medical Center and other regional trauma centers.

“We got four of the most severely injured patients an hour after the event,” Eastridge said, noting that those patients arrived with 20 minutes of each other, Eastridge said.

But as it happened, University Hospital was well-prepared to treat the wounded sent to them.

The hospital was undergoing an annual credentialing review by the American College of Surgeons. As part of that process, a verification and review team was on the premises Sunday afternoon.

“We had seven trauma surgeons here when we got the original call about massive casualties from an active shooter,” Eastridge said.

“In 45 minutes, we were up to the capacity to run 14 operating rooms and had a … triple staffed emergency department,” Eastridge said. “We were ready, as ready you can possibly be for such a horrible situation.

“We’ve been training for situations like this (a mass shooting) ever since they started happening,” he added.

Hospital officials also praised Sutherland Springs EMS workers for helping ensure speedy treatment of the wounded. “It’s not something they deal with certainly on a day-to-day basis,” Eastridge said.

As of Monday afternoon, four patients remained at the hospital, their conditions ranging from serious to critical condition, hospital officials said. Three adults and one child have been released.

Monday’s news conference originally was planned as an event to honor first responders with the San Antonio Fire Department for their efforts in saving a man who was bleeding out after an August shooting.

Tobias Walker, 26, was lying on his front lawn and bleeding profusely from a gunshot that had gone into his neck and exited out of his back.

“A gunshot wound to the neck, particularly when there’s any kind of blood vessel injury, can rapidly prove fatal,” Eastridge said.

The paramedics stabilized Walker by putting a hemostatic gauze, a type of medical cloth that promotes clot formation, and applied pressure to the wound.

San Antonio EMS paramedics Kip Hanson and Chris Young, and SAFD firefighters Carlos Meza, Jose A. Martinez, Anthony Salazar and Rafael Reyes were all honored for their efforts

“Those actions of those firefighters and that EMS crew undoubtedly kept Mr. Walker alive, no question, until his injuries could be repaired by the trauma surgeons at University Hospital,” Eastridge said.

Copyright 2017 San Antonio Express-News

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