Anser Daud is a medical student at the University of Toronto. He enjoys writing about health advocacy and human rights issues.
“We’re dealing with a situation that’s not far from here, this is serious,” said Toronto Raptors sportscaster Matt Devlin as he interrupted the proceedings of the championship ceremony at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on June 17. Those present—perhaps 2 million people by some estimates—began to wonder if their worst fears were beginning to materialize. Videos on social media show hundreds of people stampeding, scrambling, and dispersing after hearing gunshots.
Miriam Valdes-Carletti told CTV Your Morning “All of a sudden I heard a rumbling, sort of like there was a herd of animals coming towards us and everyone turned around and we were just like whiplashed and trampled all over”.
It just so happened that this was the night where I was scheduled to observe the trauma team at a downtown Toronto hospital. Stemming from this unfortunate series of events was the opportunity for me, a medical student, to witness life-saving work, at one of the world’s most advanced facilities.
As I entered through the emergency department just after 4pm, a nurse told me that the hospital was operating under a Code Orange. A Code Orange activates emergency preparedness protocols designed to manage a mass casualty incident. Staff voluntarily presented themselves from other parts of the hospital to assist with the response. It was time to save lives.
In the emergency department, I noticed a trauma surgeon and his team standing at the entrance, directing incoming paramedics on where to take each patient in real time. “Tachycardia, send to ambulatory care,” “trampled by crowd, acute care”, “Gunshot wound arriving in 10 minutes, ready the trauma bay”.
Normally this hospital has two trauma stretchers prepared to deal with trauma at any given time. On this night, the entire acute corridor had transformed into a trauma bay. There were a dozen police officers and perhaps twice as many hospital staff buzzing around, caring for patients. Ongoing police investigations were concurrent with medical care. It was a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie. Every room that I walked by, and almost every patient that was rushed into the hospital was wearing Raptors clothing.
A patient was rushed to a waiting operating room where trauma surgeons repaired the patient’s organs and stopped bleeding. I looked through other patients’ charts: notes read ‘trampled by crowd at Raptors parade’, ‘stab wound’, ‘trampled, head injury, multiple fractures’, ‘assault, blunt trauma’.
Suddenly, as staff were notified that another patient with a gun-shot wound was on the way, the main trauma bay was hastily prepared by 20 medical staff. Doctors and nurses swarmed around the patient like bees with the trauma team leader stood at the foot of the patient’s bed, quarterbacking the entire operation. General surgeons would examine the patient’s chest and abdomen, while orthopaedic surgeons evaluated extremities for fractures. Nursing staff would monitor vitals and insert IV lines, while support staff carried out a multitude of other activities. Every member of the team was in constant communication with the trauma team leader. On an average summer day, this trauma centre receives 6-12 trauma patients in a 24 hour span. On this evening, by 7:30 pm, they were already at 11.
In basketball, there is often mention of being ready for critical moments. It’s years of hard work, intense training, and repetition that enable those big shots to fall through the hoop. It’s trust in your teammates that enables a team to function in a stressful environment. In a very real sense, this is what I witnessed during my first trauma shift. The hospital’s trauma team’s performance in the hours following the shootings at Nathan Phillips Square is no less worthy of recognition than the NBA Champions themselves. Gun violence cast a shadow on one of the most joyous occasions in Canadian history. Yet, it was the complex and well-oiled machinery of the trauma team that was prepared for this critical moment, and they were nothing short of champions.