Reflecting on saving lives: UMC Trauma surgeons discuss 1 October 5 years later

Almost five years after the 1 October mass shooting, UMC trauma surgeons are reflecting on what they saw that night.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 10:29 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Almost five years after the 1 October mass shooting, UMC trauma surgeons are reflecting on what they saw that night and sharing what they have continued to see ever since.

In the minutes following the 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, which ultimately took 60 lives, health care workers like Dr. Deborah Kuhls, UMC critical care and trauma surgeon, rushed into action to treat the influx of patients coming through their doors.

Dr. Kuhls was working at the Las Vegas hospital when she got the call that night that a shooting had happened on the Strip.

“Dr. Saquib and I looked at each other, and we were like, ‘Our two teams can handle that number,’ and it seemed like a minute later, ‘Oh, it’s probably gonna be 10 to 20.’ Then we thought, ‘Oh we better be calling in all the backup resources.’ And then it-- literally it seemed like every 60 seconds the number increased. So we activated the disaster plan for the hospital.”

FOX5 asked her how she was able to keep her cool during all of that.

“I think that trauma surgeons, we have to keep our cool. Otherwise, we can’t help other people,” said Kuhls.

Dr. Kuhls and her counterparts saw a total of 104 patients from that mass shooting, and every patient who arrived at UMC with a pulse, survived that evening.

“As I look back on 1 October, ya know, as absolutely horrific as it was from patients to patients’ families, to all of us in the healthcare professions, um, it has really reinvigorated me, if you will, to get involved with preparation. So we can, if this happens again in our community-- which, I hope it never will-- that we’re ready, that we’re even more ready than the last time,” said Kuhls.

In the wake of that tragedy, drills and resources for preparedness are topics Kuhls has fiercely advocated for. This, as well as gun safety.

“Is our background check system thorough enough to prevent people who shouldn’t own guns from owning guns?” said Dr. Kuhls.

“When you have to tell somebody that their son or daughter or brother or sister died from gun violence, it sticks with you. It’s something that you never forget,” added UMC trauma surgeon Dr. Paul Chestovich.

Dr. Chestovich also treated patients that night. He said there is a big reason why so many of their patients survived that night.

“Because we get a lot of practice treating gunshot wounds,” said Dr. Chestovich. “We treat gunshot wounds all the time, every day, every night.”

He continued, “I did hope that, ya know, we saw exactly how much destruction can happen with one person-- with that kind of a firearm-- that there would be some changes, um, but sadly that hasn’t happened,” said Chestovich.

Dr. Kuhls said the hospital routinely conducts practice drills just in case something like 1 October were to ever happen again.