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Pulling Together: Orlando Health Copes with Pulse Tragedy

September 25, 2016

Just after 2:00 am on June 12, the Orlando Regional Medical Center Level One Trauma Center and Emergency Room began receiving dozens of seriously injured patients who were victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. ER doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and respiratory therapists were quickly joined by off-duty surgeons and other team members to respond to the largest mass casualty they had ever faced.

Because staff at ORMC had prepared for a mass casualty incident, team members knew what their role was and how to respond. And yet, as Dr. Michael Cheatham, chief surgical quality officer for ORMC, pointed out: “There is no way to prepare for the reality of an event such as this, but everybody stepped up to the plate. It was a huge team effort.”

Thanks to the support of the community, the ORMC Trauma Center also had the right equipment in place to serve the 44 patients who arrived that morning. Community donations in recent years had enabled the hospital to purchase three portable ultrasound machines that were deployed during the response.

“For years we’ve raised funds to support the unique needs of the region’s only Level One Trauma Center,” said John Bozard, president of the Orlando Health Foundation. “Thanks to the community’s support, ORMC was able to save many lives in a short period of time.”

Apart from doing everything possible to support the healing of the victims and their families, Orlando Health also made sure its team members received the support they needed to deal with the tragedy. Counselors from Orlando Health’s Employee Assistance Program offered post-trauma group support sessions and individual counseling 24/7 in the first three weeks following the massacre.

“Psychological first aid is so important in post-trauma situations,” said Mary Senne, PhD, a physician coach at Orlando Health with an extensive background as a clinical therapist. “Providing it in those first few hours and weeks is critical to help people move toward resilience, to bounce back you might say, and prevent or minimize psychological distress.”

A Circle of Remembrance

The new Memorial Paver Garden overlooking Lake Beauty is Orlando Health’s tribute to the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Each victim’s name is engraved on a limestone paver, which helps form a path around the entryway fountain to Orlando Health’s downtown campus.

The memorial garden is intended to serve as a source of healing and remembrance for all those touched by the tragedy. The 49 wooden crosses previously at the site were transferred to the Orange County Regional History Center.