Inside the ER as Victims of Orlando Mass Shooting Arrived: 'It was Relentless – One Patient After Another'
'It felt like it was never going to stop,' says hospital worker as victims poured in from attack on nearby gay nightclub
The night was slow inside the emergency room at Orlando Regional Medical Center in the predawn Sunday hours – until a shooting a few hundred yards away at Pulse nightclub unleashed a sudden surge of bloodied victims that seemed “relentless,” a medical professional tells PEOPLE exclusively.
“People shot in the arms and legs, people with two, three, four gunshot wounds,” says the hospital staff member, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “People shot in the chest, people shot in the head.”
“It was relentless. One patient after another. All of them dressed up really nice, in club clothes, and all of them with blood all over them. Sometimes it was their blood, or someone else’s blood.”
“It was like everyone showed up all at once, and then more people kept coming,” he says. “Like, one minute we were waiting, and the next minute, it was chaos.”
Police say at least 50 people died and at least 53 were injured in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting – for which ISIS now has claimed responsibility.
Prior to the shooting, the atmosphere in the emergency room was “nothing out of the ordinary” before the radio call about the shooting came in, the medical professional says.
“I was like, ‘Okay, some idiot shot someone else in the parking lot.’ That’s totally what I thought. But then we heard multiple victims, and I knew that something worse had happened,” he says.
“Because we’re so close, it was like everyone showed up all at once, and then more people kept coming,” he says. “There were literally hundreds of people, and family members were showing up, all panicked and hysterical. Security had to escort people out, because it was getting way too crowded.”
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Those with minor injuries, such as gunshots to the hand or who were only grazed by a bullet, were taken elsewhere. But as a Level 1 trauma center, Orlando Regional received the most severe casualties.
“Seconds count,” says the worker. “It was exactly like an episode of E.R. It was so loud. You couldn’t hear yourself think. You couldn’t hear the doctor’s orders. We were all shouting, and now we’re all really hoarse. We’re exhausted.”
He adds, “Obviously, there was a lot of adrenaline, and that has carried us through. We were running around from one person to the next. Doctors had to go tell the family members what was going on. Doctors would pull people from the waiting room and try to find somewhere quieter to give them the news. We lost one patient, a male, and they had to tell his mother. I could hear her screaming from down the hall. It was the worst sound I ever heard in my entire life.”
Of the onslaught of victims, he says, “It felt like it was never going to stop.”
“We stopped calling it the ‘shooting’ and started calling it the ‘attack.’ That just naturally happened; we are all talking about such-and-such injury from the ‘attack.’ Normally we would say ‘shooting.'”
“I went into the staff room because I needed a minute, and there were two other nurses crying,” he says. “I think everyone took a minute at some point last night and let out the emotions.”
“I cried a little bit, and then I blew my nose and washed my face and went back out,” he says. “That’s what we all did.”