Texas Surgeon Has Treated Victims of 2 Mass Shootings: 'Surely This Can't Be Happening Again'

Dr. Ronald Stewart of University Hospital in San Antonio treated victims of the Sutherland Springs church massacre in 2017 and last week's school shooting in Uvalde

Sheriff crime scene tape is seen outside of Robb Elementary School as State troopers guard the area in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. - An 18-year-old gunman killed 14 children and a teacher at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, according to the state's governor, in the nation's deadliest school shooting in years. Dr. Ronald Stewart
Photo: ALLISON DINNER/AFP via Getty. Inset: Courtesy UT Health San Antonio

Shortly before noon last Tuesday, after Dr. Ronald Stewart finished checking in on a patient at University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, he received a terrifying page: an active shooter was inside a school in the town of Uvalde, about 85 miles away.

Details were vague, but Stewart, a trauma surgeon who treated victims of 2017's mass shooting at a church in nearby Sutherland Springs, was shaken to his core.

"What went through my mind initially, I felt really sad," says Stewart. "Surely no, this can't be happening again."

But it was. At 11:33 a.m. that morning, Salvador Ramos, 18, fired more than 100 rounds inside two fourth-grade classrooms of Robb Elementary School, killing 19 children and two teachers. Just before the rampage, he shot his grandmother, who so far has survived the attack.

Stewart would soon be operating on four survivors brought to University Hospital — a 66-year-old woman, two 10-year-old girls and another girl, 9.

Uvalde, TX May 24, 2022 Shooting at Robb Elementary School kills 19 students and 2 teachers. Early stages outside the school. Credit: Uvalde Leader News free of charge. Contact: Meghann Garcia: mgarcia@ulnnow.com 830 278 3335
Uvalde Leader News

"All of them required operations," says Stewart. "They all had significant injuries and some were severely injured. And all of our patients are making progress."

One of the 10-year-old girls has been discharged, he says. Another of the 10-year-olds remains in serious condition while the other two victims are in good condition, the hospital Tweeted Wednesday.

"The children who were on that scene witnessed all; they are incredibly resilient and strong, and their families are incredibly supportive and kind," he says.

"We're really grateful that they are improving and they still have a long, long, long way to go," Stewart adds. "It's obviously very, very difficult, but they're making good progress. And in the darkness of this event, that is one thing that does bring our team joy."

Along with helping heal physical wounds, the hospital has a team of mental health professionals who immediately began addressing the psychological trauma of the shooting.

A woman mourns before the 21 crosses bearing the names of the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School at a memorial set up in the town square in Uvalde, Texas, May 27, 2022. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/The New York Times)

"The way this works," Stewart says, "is it's a moment of crisis that has the potential of a lifetime of impact."

After the massacre at the Sutherland Springs church, which left 26 people dead, including eight members of one family, Stewart has advocated for gun violence prevention, working with other doctors to recommend policies aimed at curbing further bloodshed.

"We cannot just patch people up and we cannot just not address this," says Stewart. "It should be important to us that we must do better with prevention."

The massacre in Uvalde is the deadliest school shooting since 26 people, including small children and educators, were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., nearly a decade ago. The Uvalde shooting came just 10 days after another 18-year-old shooter killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo in what authorities have said was a hate crime targeting Black people.

The father of three grown children, Stewart's voice quavers, and he holds back tears, when he reflects upon the latest mass shooting.

"It doesn't seem right that we have our families," he says, "but a whole bunch of people suddenly don't."

The school district in Uvalde has opened an official account with First State Bank of Uvalde to support Robb Elementary families affected by the tragedy. People can send checks through the mail (payable to the "Robb School Memorial Fund") or donate money through Zelle to robbschoolmemorialfund@gmail.com. People can also donate by calling 830-356-2273.

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