The Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando this past June is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history by a single shooter. Forty-nine people died, fifty-three were wounded. Of the 29 victims who underwent emergency surgery at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, all survived.
Vascular surgeon Shonak Patel was on call, June 12th, 2016. "I got three texts in a row: mass shooting, O.R.M.C., come immediately. And at first I didn't believe it because I've never gotten a text like that," said Patel. He went straight to the emergency room. "It was unlike anything I've ever seen. I couldn't even describe a movie like that."
One young man among all of the shooting victims caught his eye. He was unresponsive and his vital signs were plummeting. "They had six operating rooms open at that time and there was no availability. I thought to myself, 'He's not going to make it," he said. More victims kept arriving by the minute. "There were people that were minimally injured and to me, I felt like they were more traumatized because they were more aware of what was going on, crying and screaming," said Patel.
For the next 12 hours, Patel triaged patients and performed surgery as an emergency team of more than 500 pulled together. "People did things outside of their role. You saw doctors helping clean up just to make room for someone else," he described. Patel said that spirit of camaraderie lasted for months. He has avoided a lot of news about the attack and said he will not listen to the recently released 911 recordings of the shooter. He also rebuffs any hint of praise. "I think the only reason to speak about it is to share your experience and hope that others can learn from areas that could've been improved," he shared.
Patel said he thinks that eventually many people will be trained to perform "Hemorrhage Control", by holding certain pressure points. That way, bystanders and uninjured people will know how to stop victims from "bleeding out" after a mass shooting. Tragic but possibly crucial knowledge for laypeople to have. "I think that in the very near future, it's gonna be as common as CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver," he detailed.
Patel and his young family just moved to Pensacola. He is a Vascular Surgeon at Coastal Vascular and Interventional. He will also take trauma calls at local hospitals. Instead of focusing on the violence and pain of the Pulse shootings, Patel said he remembers the teamwork, healing and progress of the first patient he saw that terrible night. "He had multiple gun shots. His vitals said that he should've died and we saved his life. That image, that picture, will stay with me forever."