Medical personnel sprang into action to aid injured Franklin Regional students
Daylight shift had barely begun when hospital emergency rooms started getting warning notices.
Personnel should expect the worst — multiple stabbing victims — from chaos at a local high school.
Within minutes, dozens of doctors and nurses rushed to emergency departments and operating rooms from Oakland to Monroeville, standing guard as victims began to arrive from Franklin Regional Senior High School.
“We didn't know what the number of patients was going to be,” said Dr. Mark Rubino, chief medical officer at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, where doctors treated eight victims. “We knew it was up to eight, so we mobilized all personnel.”
Workers at six hospitals — Forbes, UPMC East, UPMC Mercy, UPMC Presbyterian, Allegheny General and Children's Hospital — hurried to execute emergency response plans, guided by first-responders who assessed the wounded based on their injuries.
It was about 7:30 a.m., a time when most hospitals bustle with workers and doctors change shifts.
That timing proved to be critical, Rubino and others said. At Children's Hospital, night shift workers volunteered to stay to help those coming in on daylight shift.
“Had it occurred at another time, we would have had to call a disaster code to bring in additional staff,” said Dr. Kimberly Roth, physician director of emergency preparedness. Children's treated five patients, discharging three before day's end.
As patients began arriving at Children's, Franklin Regional School Board President Dr. Lawrence Borland, an anesthesiologist, happened to be working in an operating room. Someone called him with the news. He did not treat any of the victims but reached out to parents in the waiting area.
“It looks like everything will be OK,” he told them.
Later, Borland said he felt “drained and shell-shocked,” even though the school holds frequent drills to prepare for disasters.“It's hard to understand why any of this happens,” he said.
At Forbes, 20 physicians and 40 nurses assembled in the emergency department by the time the first victim arrived, Rubino said. Trauma surgeons walked alongside stretchers as victims were wheeled in. There were no screams, no panic.
“It was relatively quiet,” Rubino said. “The students were relatively quiet. They were in a state of shock.”
Forbes trauma surgeon Dr. Chris Kaufmann assessed victims with the help of three anesthesiologists. Emergency physicians intubated patients and inserted central lines to deliver drugs. Other specialists waited to help, including cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons and urologists.
Within 20 minutes, two students were in operating rooms. A third patient followed minutes later. At least 10 other operating rooms remained staffed, prepared for patients.
Rubino said Forbes' designation as a Level 2 trauma center, attained in October, helped the staff.
“You train for this, you prepare for this,” he said. “The efforts made over the past two years to establish a trauma center paid the community well.”
Luis Fábregas is Trib Total Media's medical editor. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.