After receiving word of a mass shooting at a nearby school on the morning of Dec. 14, staff at Danbury (Conn.) Hospital were prepared to try to save as many lives as possible.
They never got the kind of chance they were anticipating.
Of the 20 first-graders and six teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about 12 miles from the hospital, all but two children died at the scene. The two children were declared dead at the hospital.
A woman also was taken to the hospital and is the lone survivor of the shootings. That patient, reportedly the schools vice principal, is said to be in good condition.
The shooting was called into the hospital at about 10 a.m. and triggered a trauma code, with 70 to 80 doctors, nurses and other staff mobilized. The hospital opened four trauma rooms and six operating rooms to accommodate the arrival of potentially about two dozen victims.
Staff were “prepared to deal with whatever was coming our way,” John Murphy, MD, president and CEO of the Western Connecticut Health Network, which is Danbury Hospitals parent organization, said to ABC News.
Within 10 minutes, the three victims arrived at the hospital, and some of the staff on hand began to do whatever they could to treat them. But about 30 minutes after that, a call came in that no more patients would be coming, “and that was the moment where the enormity of the tragedy really sunk in,” Murphy said.
Murphy heard someone remark that “this is how they must have felt on 9-11,” when hospitals in New York City mobilized to care for several thousand victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but ended up with only a smattering of initial survivors.
Danbury Hospitals focus has turned to helping people in the community cope with the psychological trauma of the killings. The hospital will deploy mobile units to help with grief counseling throughout the community and have a crisis intervention service available.
“Were prepared for months to come to provide the mental health services that will undoubtedly have to be provided,” Murphy said.
Residents who need assistance or care for themselves or their families may access services by calling 203-739-7007. In addition, Connecticuts 211 InfoLine, a 24/7 call line with bilingual capabilities, is available to connect callers to counselors or other needed supports.