The active shooter attack that took place at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital last week was a real-life manifestation of the worst nightmare for many healthcare professionals, working in an environment in which they are highly vulnerable. Of course, they also have uniquely firsthand knowledge of the devastation high-powered weaponry delivers.
Luckily, they were also equipped to respond to the aftermath of bullets striking their colleagues.
“Timely action is what saved lives that day,” Chief physician Zid Sridhar Chilimuri, MD, said in a recent press conference, according to CBS News. “Many of our victims had horrendous injuries from assault weapons at a close range, but the team that worked on them kept all of them alive.”
One person was killed by the assailant and six others were injured. According to CNN and other sources, the fatal victim was Tracy Sin Yee Tam, a 32-year-old doctor who was on duty because she was covering for another physician who was out for the day.
The gunman took his own life before being apprehended by authorities.
At the press conference, other members of the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital staff shared their experiences when the emergency situation erupted. Nurse Donna LeePeterkin was tending to a patient on one of the floors where the shooting took place. Even as police started to evacuate staff, LeePeterkin stayed at her post.
“I couldn’t abandon my patient,” she said. “I was scared and she was scared, but I had to be brave for her … because that’s what we’re called to do.”
Errol C. Schneer, vice president at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, noted that such composure under unthinkable pressure was pervasive during the shooting.
“Hospital staff throughout the crisis were able to able to operate at an optimal level,” said Schneer. “Babies were delivered, surgeries continued, and that was made possible because staff stayed and did what they had to do.”
The outpouring of support following the gunman’s attack illustrates the hospital’s deep connection to the community.
“We live in the Bronx,” said Hafsa Abbas, MD, one of the hospital’s chief residents, according to a New York Times article. “We know our patients, we meet them at the grocery stores, we go to the same places they do.”
The primacy of the hospital in the life of its neighborhood further cements the need for the facility to respond by getting right back to the business of caring for others, even if staff is understandably rattled. Stability of purpose is what the hospital’s patients need.
“The hospital is their entire support system often,” Chilimuri said, according to the Times. “Even things that are wrong in their own families, they look to the hospital to solve them.”