OLOL trauma surgeons reflect on Sunday's shooting

Healthline: Inside OLOL's trauma center
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As the horror of Sunday's attack unfolded, the front line quickly moved from Airline Highway to Essen Lane. Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical
Center activated its Level 2 trauma center, the only designated trauma unit in the area.
Dr. Stewart Cayton was only about an hour into his shift as the on-call trauma surgeon when the Code Yellow page went out. It's a mass casualty
call that brings in all available resources.

"It said 'Multiple gunshot victims, four officers injured, two patients already here,'" Cayton recalled.

Dr. Tomas Jacome had just d ropped off his children at the airport when he got word to come straight to work. At least 19 nurses also came in from home to help out.
"I don't know any more than four officers got shot, so on the way in it's 'How bad are they injured, what injuries do they have,'" Jacome said.

The OLOL trauma unit operates as a Level 1 center, even though it lacks the official designation. Surgeons treat around 200 trauma patients per month, but on this Sunday it was personal.

"We work with a lot of these officers and deputies and troopers on a daily basis, and a lot of them are familiar faces, and when things like this happen, there's an anxiety to a certain extent," Cayton said.

The officers' faces alongside the helpless faces of their families and the focused faces of their staff will forever live in the surgeons' minds.

"We had nurses that were crying, we had police officers that were crying, we had people that were very stoic and almost in a state of shock, but everybody did their jobs and did them well. Very well," Cayton explained.

About four hours in, after the initial surgeries were over, doctors and nurses gathered in a circle to pray. It was just the beginning of how they're processing what they witnessed. Dr. Jacome got several supportive messages from other trauma surgeons across
the country.
"The way the nurses have interacted with the law enforcement and the law enforcement have interacted with us, it's just been an outpouring," he
said. "And not only from our community but other communities that are hurting. Dallas, Orlando, I mean everybody has gathered and tried to support our community, and we're going to get through this."

You can see that community support in the growing mountain of tributes at the hospital entrance. You can also see it in the thin blue line of ribbons wrapped around the oak trees on Hennessy Blvd.

The dedicated trauma team is comforted by the fact that they did their best.

"Unfortunately on Sunday we weren't given the chance to even enter the game. The three officers that expired were too far gone when they got to us," Cayton said. "However, the fourth officer we were able to help and we're continuing to treat. We did everything we could for him. We utilized every resource that we could, and it made a difference."

But their work goes beyond the OR. These surgeons will now use their voices to help keep violence out of their hands.

"We all need to take a step back and see how we can improve relations. If we can provide as trauma surgeons some guidance or some injury prevention, that's what we're here for, and that's what makes a trauma center special," Jacome added.

Both surgeons said they're still processing their emotions and that it will likely take a while to fully be at peace.

"This person came in from out of town with the strict purpose of doing evil and killing people, and that doesn't sit well with me. So I'm upset about that," Cayton explained. "From an emotional standpoint and as far as the officers, I'm sad that they're gone, but I do take some solace in the fact that we did everything that we could for them."
Cayton and Jacome are confident their trauma center will eventually get the Level 1 designation. The hospital must meet more research requirements and expand their surgical resident training program to reach that goal.
The hospital is working with all its staff to provide spiritual and psychological counseling to those who need it.

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