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Fort Hood Shooting Reopened Wounds At Trauma Unit


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. U.S. Army officials are saying that an argument may have set off Specialist Ivan Lopez, who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood this past week. He killed four people, including himself, and injured 16 others. Those who survived were taken to Baylor Scott and White Hospital nearby in Temple, Texas. Dr. Matthew Davis is the head of the trauma program there. He and his staff also treated the injured after the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood.

DR. MATTHEW DAVIS: For a lot of people in the community - had some tremendous wounds from that previous encounter, both physically and emotionally. So I think that this was kind of a reopening of that scab. And I think for us in the hospital, it was just a shock that something like is would actually happen again. You know, we used that last incident as an opportunity to improve our capacity to deal with this, but we hoped we would never have to use it again, especially in something so similar.

MARTIN: Can you talk a little bit more about what, specifically, did change after that 2009 attack?

DAVIS: Some of the things we found were really small things, such as securing a building. We had reporters that were, you know, trying to get in back ways to talk to patients. So those are things - we're trying to protect patient confidentiality and make sure they were safe. And the things at the time of the actual shooting were just - how do we make sure that we have good communication with Fort Hood? And we've set up a special radio link between the two hospitals so that we can make sure we have real-time communication with them. And doing mass casualty exercises. We've have increased the frequency of those and we've have made the scale of those much larger. So there have been a lot multiple things on a lot of fronts and I think they paid off with large dividends this weekend.

MARTIN: Is there a different kind of emotional component in dealing with victims of a mass shooting, as opposed to a car wreck or other emergency?

DAVIS: There is to a degree. I think that taking care of people who are traumatically injured - one of the groups that's really difficult to take care of are children who are involved in a trauma. You almost kind of become shocked, and you can be a little bit immobilized and kind of paralyzed by the shock of the moment. And it takes training and experience to get past that and begin to work immediately and quickly to say that child's life. I would say there's a similar feeling when you're dealing with a mass casualty event. And I will say that unfortunately having experience with the 2009 event helped us overcome that feeling of paralysis. This time it was just very quickly right to work.

MARTIN: And do you and your staff - are there resources for you after something like this?

DAVIS: In terms of emotional support types of...


DAVIS: Yes, we do have that. That's something that we've done, not just for events like this, but because we take care of a lot of emotionally distressing events that can particular impact, I've found, our nurses. Our nurses tend to establish really personal connections with the patients and their families. And so we've really worked hard to set up some internal mechanisms to help, you know, debriefing after this occurs and help them talk through their feelings and work through it with our professional counselors.

MARTIN: Well, we know it's been a tough week for you and we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Dr. Matthew Davis is the director of the trauma unit at Baylor Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas, which is near Fort Hood. Thanks so much for taking the time, Dr. Davis.

DAVIS: My pleasure, Rachel. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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