The Cycle | July 24, 2012
>> to bring in dr. chris caldwell . doctor, the hospital originally received seven aurora victims, four still being treated but all of your patients survived. you credit a big part of your response to how you handled columbine victims 13 years ago and what you've learned since then. explain that.
>> well, i think we have learned certainly from major events that have happened columbine being one of them, we've learned to better prepare for a major event where you get multiple victims and get out of the mode where we will typically have when we have a gunshot wound victim that comes in, say, most evenings, and focus all of our resources on that. when you have the potential for a lot of victims coming in and many very ill you want to start to mobilize resources early, you want to start to identify what resources need to be applied to which patient at that moment. realizing you may need more later. it's a different mind-set and it's important to not only think about that, unfortunately in some cases experience it, and also practice and drill it so you're ready for something like this.
>> doctor, i was wondering if you could talk a little bit you as a human being and a doctor responding to a mass tragedy like this. what is going through your mine as you're treating victims? is it just your training and experience kicking? what kind of longer lasting emotional toll does it take on you as a person?
>> so it does take certainly a longer lasting toll down the road, i think, all of us are human and it impacts all of us in so many ways. some wayis i feel lucky because i have a task i can do and i can focus on that. i don't have to think about the bigger ramifications of what's happening, why it happened, how that can be prevented, and why some of the things that came together that resulted in this event happened. i don't have to think about that. certainly not right away. and many of us, as providers, responders, can focus on the job at hand, the task at hand. so many times it is, it's going into that realm. we do, we unfortunately certainly at denver health and many places across the country treat gunshot wound victims on a regular basis. so we can go into that mode and certainly my role in the hospital is very different from a situation, say, at columbine where i was a physician at the scene. then you need to step back and look more at a scene, triage, those type of things. particularly in this case, talking about victims at the hospital we as providers can focus on that, can go into that mode, and we -- it does take its toll but it's later, it's after we've had a chance to focus on taking care of patients.
>> talk about that moment when you come out of that mode, finished dealing with a specific patient and now you have to debrief and maybe not just you but your staff and especially as a group of people who also dealt with columbine so you have bad memories coming back as well as the trauma that you're dealing with in front of you.
>> so it is, it's so important to recognize how this will impact providers. certainly the responders. but even the people in the hospital and seeing that come in and then taking it all in after and trying to come to grips with what has happened and how this impacts all of us. so it's important to have those types of discussions. you have what we call debriefings where you get the group together, both the folks involved but also even people that weren't necessarily involved but you interact with every day so you can talk through some of the things, sort through some of the things, identify what might have hance answers and what might help some people and what some things we may never know the answer for. but that debriefing is so important. and it sometimes gets lost in all of this while we focus on that health care . so it is so important to do that. and then we're all, i think, faced with going home and sitting down and realizing that we have families and what happens there. do we change because of what happened here? with columbine you bring up, i didn't have children at the time, i've since had children, so do you let them go to school? with this episode, do you go to movies? my wife and i took our three kids to a movie on sunday. almost specifically to say, we're going to make a decision not to be governed by fear, as tempting as it is to do this.
>> that's powerful.
>> thinking back to thursday, when this happened it happened overnight, i guess. just kind of curious, how did you find out about it? where were you? what's your reaction when you get that initial report something like this has happened?
>> so at the moment it happened i was home in bed and the phone call i got was before 1:00 in the morning. very official reaction is trying to wake up. i had spend a long day at work before so i was fairly in deep sleep and it was an initial wake-up and initial seconds of trying to register what the message really was. but they don't call me at home for the fairly typical episodes where we run into potential multiple victims from a shooting or something like that. this united statwas beyond that. it quickly went into okay we have obviously identified a situation in all likelihood something unusual even for us. so now we need to go very quickly into the mode of what needs to happen, how do we mobilize resources, what needs to happen now, what do i need to be thinking about for six hours and eight hours from now? one of the initial thoughts, sense we were well-resourced at this time when this came in, we had both evening shift and the night shift both there. so we were -- we had good resources at the time. but you have to think, is this really an event that's going to last maybe 8, 12 hours or more? what resources are we going to need to replace ones that are dealing with the incident right now? you need to think of those type of things. i can focus on the task at hand, not so much how is this happening, is it really happening, not again.
>> dr. colwell, thank you so much for joining us. the first responder is just one part of the heroic story playing out in colorado. later,