South Florida Hospital News
Friday September 20, 2019
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February 2019 - Volume 15 - Issue 8

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Broward Health Physicians Look Back at the Parkland School Shooting One Year Later

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February 14, Dr. Evan Boyar, medical director of emergency services for Broward Health North, can still recall the aftermath quite clearly in his mind. 

“It was a Wednesday afternoon between 2:30 and 3:00, which is typically a busy time for us,” he says. “The volume of patients is usually quite high. Suddenly, we received a call from pre-hospital personnel about the incident that took place."
 
Based on this intel, Broward Health North activated a Code Green, a status that the hospital undergoes to be able to receive and facilitate the treatment of a mass casualty incident.
 
“There are multiple moving parts that take place,” says Dr. Boyar. “We have had Code Green drills in the past which helps us prepare for a situation like that one.”
 
The initial question on everyone’s mind that afternoon was: is this a drill or no drill? Once they determined that this was real, the next question was who’s coming? When it’s disclosed what types of patients could be arriving, Dr. Boyar describes it as a switch that flips from the normal daily operation of an emergency department to a Code Green for mass casualty incidents.
 
“By then, we were all aware that the patient population coming in were teenagers,” he says. “That raises your antenna and makes everyone laser-focused. It turned into a very focused atmosphere and anticipation of worry about what is going on at the school and the children and the parents. That’s what’s going through your mind, but we have a job to do.”
 
Dr. Igor Nichiporenko, medical director of trauma services at Broward Health North, was also working that afternoon.
 
“As a trauma center, we see patients with devastating injuries very often,” he says. “Something that you do every day pays off when something catastrophic, such as a mass casualty shooting with multiple victims, happens. That experience helped us work quickly and efficiently.”
 
Dr. Nichiporenko says preparation is key.
 
“Today, we could have another shooting. It makes us be more prepared and more aware that a mass casualty event like Parkland can happen anytime, anywhere,” he says. “You have to be ready and that’s something you think of when you go to work on your shift. You wonder if it could happen again.”
 
The first two weeks after the shooting, Dr. Nichiporenko says that people at the hospital and around Parkland, FL, were still in shock. Everyone was affected by the tragedy.
 
“No one expects something like that would happen in a nice area like Parkland,” he says. “We have doctors, nurses and friends who lived there. Eventually, we began to slowly move on from this because we work with sick people every day and had to continue to do our work.”
 
Broward Health North received eight patients that day, including the shooter. Two patients from Broward Health North were called upon arrival. Broward Health Medical Center received seven patients.
 
If there was any good that came from this tragedy, it was the number of patients’ lives who were saved that day, according to Dr. Ivan Puente, medical director of trauma services of Broward Health Medical Center.
 
“We can take comfort that we were ready. We were tested and it worked,” he says. “Every patient who came in alive left alive and that is a remarkable achievement. I’m happy to live in a community that has the people in place to provide the best care possible under these types of circumstances.”
 
Dr. Boyar agrees.
 
“The patients who presented to our facility with the potential to be saved were saved, so I think the hospital and community could value that those children were given the opportunity to walk out of the hospital,” he says. “That is a positive thing that we could look at.”
 
He adds that it is not easy to maintain and sustain trauma centers such as Broward Health North and Broward Health Medical Center.
 
“There are multiple specialties that practice trauma on a daily basis and drill often for catastrophic events,” he says. “They are able to maintain their clinical skills so if there is an event like this that takes place, a facility is prepared to take care of their community. I think that’s important because there is a belief that trauma centers can open up anywhere. But it takes a lot of dedication from a medical staff and a health system to be able to provide these services for our community.”
 
Nearly a year later, Dr. Puente still feels sad and angry.
 
“I’m concerned that it will not be the end unfortunately,” he says. “I have two teenagers myself and I worry about their safety. I hug them harder before and after school.”
 
Six degrees of separation is the idea that everyone in the world is six or fewer steps away from each other. Similarly, Dr. Puente says that in Parkland, the degree of separation doesn’t go beyond two people.
 
"Most people either knew someone who was shot or knew someone who knew one of the victims,” he says. “A tragedy like this hits too close to home. We’re a community of close to two million people but we are closely knit.”
 
Dr. Puente advises other hospitals and healthcare facilities to continue with Code Green drills and be prepared to be called into action.
 
“Even though there are three hospitals in Broward County that are trauma centers, the truth is an event of an even larger magnitude such as the Las Vegas shooting can happen,” he says. “When it does, many hospitals will have to participate and help to take care of the walking wounded. This a community effort and you may be called upon one day. So be sure to have a process in place to handle a large volume of patients who may need medical care quickly.”
 
Parkland shooting survivor Maddy Wilford, who was once in critical condition, was one of those who made a full recovery at Broward Health North. Wilford was so inspired by the doctors and nurses who saved her that she spent the past summer interning with Dr. Nichiporenko, who saved her life.
 
“She wants to be a doctor someday and help other people when they get hurt because of what she had to go through,” says Dr. Nichiporenko.
 
In fact, another shooting survivor from the high school will follow in Wilford’s footsteps and intern this summer with Dr. Nichiporenko as well.
 
“To me, it’s a great sense of satisfaction of what we did that day,” says Dr. Nichiporenko. “We not only saved these kids’ lives but we actually influenced them to make a decision about their future.”

For more information, visit www.browardhealth.org.

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