Exclusive Interview with Las Vegas Nurse who Worked During Shooting
A Las Vegas nurse candidly shares her experience living and working during the horrendous shooting.
Many of us may wonder what it would be like to be faced with a disaster right in our community. Sara D. is an oncology nurse in a large hospital in Vegas and reported to work in the middle of the Las Vegas massacre. She generously agreed to share her experience.
Sara, what happened that night?
Sunday was my night off. I am always off on Sunday nights and it's my time to completely relax and re-charge. So I was sitting at home and watching an absolutely terrible movie (laughs). I happened to look at my phone and saw CNN breaking news that there was a huge shooting. I thought there's no way!! This is insane!
I just felt strongly like I needed to go do something.
Did you ever think beforehand about what you would do if a disaster happened and you were not at work?
I always thought, living in Vegas, that something would happen-it was just a matter of when. We're a target. I've been in the hospital when we had an active shooter or bomb threat and I know the drill. Close all the doors, make sure the patients are safe. My hospital had regular disaster drills. But never anything like this.
What motivated you to go in that night?
Literally, because they described it as a massacre. I figured it's what you do. I know that I can respond in an emergency situation.
I thought "They are going to need anyone who knows how to do anything at this point".
I posted on Facebook, "Does anyone know how nurses can help? Where can nurses go to respond?" So then I called the charge nurse on my floor and at that time she hadn't heard yet what was going on. She called the house supervisor and he said to come in right away.
I got dressed and went in immediately but I texted my Mom first. "You are going to hear about this soon, Mom. I'm going into the hospital. Don't freak out." She started crying and then said she was proud of me.
What was your assignment when you got there?
They put me down in ED hold, which is overflow. I dealt with the non-traumatic patients coming in with chest pain and syncope, and so on.
Then we had to open up a second overflow unit and move patients over there. The front ED was designated for shooting victims. We had five victims when I got there. I remember looking down the hall towards the bathroom. Near the bathroom was a man with his back to me. He was wearing a plaid shirt, all bloodied and dirty on the back. Standing next to him was a girl on crutches.
Did your hospital do a good job in an emergency?
Everything flowed super well. We were able to get everyone taken care of - that was the main point!
We were on lockdown, which meant putting our victims and victim's family in separate rooms. No one was allowed to leave until they talked to Metro. We had Metro at all of our entrances and inside the facility.
There really wasn't a lot of confusion like "Are we using this room or that room?" because we had excellent teamwork and we were ready to work in a massive disaster from previous training.
What inspired you?
I'm so proud to be from Vegas. Because people don't understand that we're not just strippers who live in hotels and gamble. I was raised here. Educated here. It's not just a transient town, a tourist town; it's my hometown - since I was three years old.
We're a community.
The outpouring of love and support was insane. For a week afterward, the staff at every hospital got meals delivered. A local tattoo artist offered Las Vegas Strong tattoos for a $50.00 donation that went directly to the Victim's Fund.
It's really strange. As awful as it was, I felt the power and goodness of my community.
How has it affected you emotionally?
It was an absolutely, incredibly horrible event, we still don't know the motive, there's still so much confusion. It was so much bigger than anything we ever imagined would happen.
And people are all thanking me for my part, but I feel like I didn't do anything special. It feels weird. What I saw and did wasn't close to what others saw and did, so I feel weird getting credit.
I was definitely like in a funk for about a week.
It was surreal. And then I still had to work my normal workweek.
There was a very weird feeling in the hospital as well. I felt empathetic to everyone's emotions. I had a friend who was at the concert who had people shot and killed right next to her. I have friends from high school who were there and I'm still hearing who was there.
Ya...., it gives you a weird sense that something really big did happen right here where you live. Driving down the strip, I see shattered windows. It feels heavy driving down strangely quiet streets at 2 am. It makes you more aware of your surroundings but for me personally, I haven't changed my routine. I actually have a concert tomorrow night at Mandalay Bay that I'm going to.
I don't want to always to be afraid. I'm not going to live in fear because then the bad
I'm not going to just stay in my house because you know what, I'm going to die eventually anyway.
Nothing good comes of me not going out and living my life.
I take care of people dying from cancer. It's what I do. As an oncology nurse you face your mortality sooner anyway, you know, so it's how I deal.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with your fellow nurses?
It felt awesome being part of something so much bigger than myself, no matter how horrendous it was. Even if you feel you didn't make a difference...you did. Being there to go get a patient a cup of ice was more fulfilling than if I had just sat there and done nothing and watched my fellow co-workers and my hospital go through all this.
My hospital is my second family. I see more of them than I do my own family. You never want to be in an internal disaster triage or an external disaster triage that affects your hospital and your work family.
All us nurses have this common bond, a natural need to take care of people. So if you're my co-worker, and you're inundated, I will gladly come behind you and pass ice or start an IV. And that's what I got to do that day.
I love that we came together.
Sara, thank you so much. You make us all proud and remind us why we chose this profession.Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
Oct 17, '17Sara, thank you so much for sharing your story. You were able to do what many in this nursing community wanted to do but couldn't.......
I just felt strongly like I needed to go do something.Oct 17, '17I work as an RN in Las Vegas and took care of several shooting victims in the ICU. It was several days of tears and team work.
Thank you to all the hospitals and staff nationally that donated free food and gifts to the affected families and staff.
Amidst tragedy, there were some happy endings.Oct 17, '17I went to nursing school in Vegas and worked at Humana Sunrise in the ER.
This community rocks...you all are to be congratulated for rallying around this incredible tragedy and caring for so many victims
Thank you!Oct 18, '17How amazing. I never really think about the nurses testimonies after a tragedy... thank you for sharingOct 23, '17Thank you Beth for interviewing Sara. Thank you Sara for sharing your story. I'm so glad you were able to report to work that night, and I'm sure the physical and emotional toll was great that night. Nurses rock.
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