COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Nearly two years after the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando, Florida, one of the emergency room physicians who rushed into action that morning is speaking in central Ohio.
Dr. Gary Parrish spoke at a trauma symposium at Mount Carmel East in Columbus, sharing his story with a group of medical professionals. He discussed what he and his team did well that day, as well as what they learned in the aftermath of the incident.
Parrish was on call that early Sunday morning in the emergency department at Orlando Regional Medical Center, two blocks away from Pulse, when a police officer notified him and his team that there could be a number of patients coming in with critical injuries.
“I have been an ER doc for 32 years at a busy trauma center,” Parrish said. “I have never seen anything to that extent in my entire career.”
His hospital treated more than 40 patients in the first few hours after the shooting, many of them critically injured from being shot at close range. The shooting was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in modern U.S. history, although the shooting in Las Vegas more than a year later became the deadliest.
“It’s unfortunate, but I think we have all understood that these kind of tragedies are becoming more frequent,” Parrish said.
Critical to their efforts, he said, was their quick implementation of their mass casualty plan.
“We didn’t wait to see if there’s really going to be 20 patients,” Parrish said. “When they started coming in, we activated our plan.”
The medical professionals who treated patients in the hours and days after the shooting gleaned advice from those who had been through other mass casualty incidents, such as those in Boston and San Bernardino, and later passed on that advice to professionals in Las Vegas.
Parrish said his hospital dealt with some challenges, from electronic medical records to identifying patients to reunite them with their families. He said dealing with the “aftermath of the crisis” was also a challenge, from caring for caregivers to handling charitable contributions and managing the media.
The shooting, he said, left a “great impact” on the medical center and the community.
“I think it took us all a little while for this to settle in. Certainly when I left to go home that morning, I had no idea how serious an event this actually was. It takes a little bit of time for that to sit in,” Parrish said.
Parrish said giving talks such as this one has been therapeutic for him, as he dealt with what he and others went through that night.