Bullet fragments are still lodged in Robert Aguilar’s back, but almost a year after he was wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, he can walk with the help of a cane and has a very special group of people to thank: the health careproviders at a Las Vegas area hospital.
Aguilar and other survivors did just that Friday, when they reunited with the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who cared for them at Sunrise Hospital. They shared emotional stories in person or prerecorded videos of their days and weeks at the hospital and the time since they were discharged.
“I can’t thank them enough,” said Aguilar, who was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in his right side, a bullet stuck in his spine. “It feels weird to be back… (But) it is good to see everybody up and about and moving after seeing them hurt and bandaged.”
Aguilar, a resident of Rancho Cucamonga, California, texts and talks on the phone with his surgeon at least once a month.
He is among the more than 200 victims the hospital handled the night of Oct. 1, when a high-stakes gambler broke the windows of his Las Vegas Strip casino-resort suite and opened fire into a crowd at an outdoor country music festival. He killed 58 people and injured hundreds more before taking his own life.
Testimonials from victims and their relatives, as well as health care providers, left many of the more than 100 attendees teary. Some of the victims also reunited with others who were taken to the hospital in personal vehicles.
Dr. Chris Fisher, the hospital’s medical director of trauma services, said it is sometimes difficult to recognize some of his patients because he saw them at their worst. But days like Friday, when patients look great and like anybody else, “are the best days for a trauma surgeon.”
“It’s the most rewarding part of the job,” Fisher said of moments when he reunites with patients. “It’s so hard to go through that experience not only as a patient but as a physician. The reward for that is to see them come back; to see them living normal lives again, to see them experiencing all that life has to offer with their family and their friends.”
Kortney Spencer of Los Angeles was shot in the right leg and spent 11 nights at the hospital. She said she wanted to find a nurse who helped her, but couldn’t remember her name because of the condition she was in while at the hospital.
“It’s hard to try to reconnect,” Spencer said. “But they were really amazing, and I wanted to make sure they get recognized and that I could say thank you.”