“They were arriving four or five at a time, in trucks, ambulances, police cars … any way people could get the wounded to us,” Sklamberg says. “It was a constant stream. I positioned myself, along with our COO and house supervisors, in the middle of the trauma bay. We called in additional personnel to activate our command center, and we did what we could to help the teams in the ER. These patients had gunshot wounds in the chest, head and belly, even multiple wounds, and to see our team perform the way they did was nothing short of remarkable. You can’t drill for this. We had phlebotomists doing CPR; we had respiratory therapists making packs of chest tubes and intubation kits.”
And then there were the doctors. “Within a half hour we had more than 100 doctors in this hospital, more than three dozen surgeons from neurology to cardiology to general to plastic; even four pediatric surgeons came in,” Sklamberg says, adding that 40 anesthesiologists also came in to help.
As the command center was set up and the patients were seen to, Sklamberg and other administrators turned the hospital auditorium into a family service center.
“We set that up as a receiving and waiting room, and soon we had 200 family members in there,” Sklamberg says. “A big challenge was that 92 of the 212 patients we were treating had no form of identification on them, and so in addition to providing updates, we also had teams of managers, directors and supervisors meeting with families to obtain identifying marks and characteristics of their loved one, be it piercings, body art or scars, along with pictures, so we could match up patients with those names.”
Treating more than 200 people in about an hour, many of whom were severely wounded, took the kind of teamwork that a hospital administrator can only dream of. Sklamberg says he’s not surprised that the Sunrise staff rose to the challenge, and expresses how humbled he was by the sheer magnitude of their efforts.
“It really was a war zone in there, and it was all hands on deck. Everyone did their job, and did other people’s jobs as well. We turned the entire ER three or four times during this event, and turned the OR suites multiple times as well. At one point, we had 10 OR suites in use. We never went on diversion, but took in every patient who came to our doors. We were innovative. We had teams mobilizing crash carts and they made 50 of them. We had people making sure supplies never dwindled, and calling back to the pharmacy to make sure that any drugs needed would be there. This is an ER that sees more than 100,000 people annually, so the staff knows what to do. But people didn’t just meet needs, they anticipated them.”
During the hours after the shooting, the hospital staff was focused on what was happening within its four walls. Outside, however, the Las Vegas community, the nation and the world were watching them with awe and admiration. Even as patients were being triaged and treated, area residents began flooding the hospital with thoughts, prayers — and food. Dozens of pizzas alone ensured that waiting families and friends, as well as care teams, could have something to eat when they could take a short break. “We had completed emergency drills only a couple of days before. You can drill on a regular basis, but nothing could have prepared us for the magnitude of Oct. 1,” Sklamberg says. “I’ve never been so proud of our hospital, and our city, to see how we collectively responded to this unprecedented event.”
These are just a few of our HCA Healthcare team members’ amazing stories of skill, compassion and courage in the face of crisis. We encourage you to share your story using the hashtag #StandTogetherVegas