Medical Response to the Fort Hood Massacre

Yesterday a beautiful, warm, blue-blue-make-you-happy-sky day in Texas. I was scheduled to work a shift at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, the busiest emergency department in the Army, at a base with always more than fifty thousand soldiers. 

I have been a civilian contract emergency physician at Fort Hood since 2003. I teach Army residents and students and mid-level practitioners emergency medical practice, working alongside the main group of remarkable and able Army Physician Faculty, who do what I do, and are regularly deployed "down range" to support the Army missions in the field. 

I was one of many physicians from the central Texas area who filled in during the hot war in Iraq, and I stayed on. I can't think of a better job than caring for and thanking thousands of soldiers and their families and teaching some of the finest specimens of American youth extant -- people who haven't forgotten the virtues and the concepts of duty, honor, and country, and who make their parents and families proud. Some days I am overcome by the good I see in these students and physicians-in-training. I am one lucky old doc. 

Tragedy struck Fort Hood today, sudden and violent. I write of the best damn mass-casualty drill that could be imagined, made so by extraordinary efforts in the face of a mountain of awful human carnage. Dozens of ambulances from everywhere, helicopters in the sky, soldiers and Army medics and paramedics working the scene with efficiency, competence, and cooperation among area hospitals that allowed remarkable and effective evacuation, triage, use of resources, and superlative resuscitation. I couldn't help but note and admire their performance -- and be happy that they are my colleagues and friends in many cases.

I was concerned after the first wave that we would be overwhelmed, but the regional ambulance and hospital physician help and the dispersal of cases to surrounding hospitals made it possible for our hospital to achieve great success along with those other groups and facilities -- pitching in to care for more than thirty wounded. During the peak, easily more than a hundred physicians, nurses, techs, aids, clerks housekeepers, security, and so many soldiers and civilian workers worked feverishly at our hospital. They made a difference and saved lives.  

Last night I left that emergency department so proud of what I saw, so damn proud of the U.S. Army and the people who kept their cool, worked hard, and saved lives the way their fellow soldiers and their grateful families would hope for them to. Not a slacker to be seen today in the massive effort to save our precious people. Leadership and intelligent decision-making kept the work evenly distributed. It was just the way they like to outline a mass casualty drill in the book -- eye on the ball, manage resources, triage properly, focus on priorities for patient survival. It was good because there were so many there who were battlefield experienced and able. They were ready, and they performed.  So many great specialists came down to help.  Nurses galore. One big patient-care machine, humming along.

I know these people and could name them, put them up for accolades and such, but they would do this if no one was watching -- the true measure of greatness and virtue. My wife Patty, who was at home worrying and didn't know what was happening, was like those other wonderful spouses of soldiers who sacrifice. They worry silently when all hell breaks loose. We shall not forget them, and we grieve with the families who have lost their precious treasure. How horrific.

I wish I could be more eloquent describing what I do, why I love these people so much or why when I left the Department tonight I just had to write this tribute to their effort today.  I can say that what I do is as close as I'll get to working with angels and heroes as a physician. Today was the kind of terrible day that makes us hope there are angels and heroes, the kind of day that makes us pleasantly surprised to be touched by one. Not one cross word today; nothing but tenderness and concern and peddle-to-the-metal effort. Once in a while an announcement would be made to keep the noise down, there were so many people doing so many things at once.

So I had to write tonight about the angels and heroes. I teach one of the ethics lectures for the residents and remind them that they define themselves as virtuous and extraordinary when they volunteer to put on the uniform. I saw the great green-suiters and their support group working today. I had to tell you, so you could know that in some parts of America and in some segments of our people, there is such wonderful goodness. If you had been there, you would have cried for joy and for how lucky we are as a people. I started this essay at 8:30, and now it's 10:00 -- Taps just sounded for Fort Hood. RIP, departed heroes and heroines. And to the living heroes and heroines, thanks for your effort today.  

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is an emergency physician and resident of Brownwood, TX.  His opinions are his own and not attributable to the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.
Yesterday a beautiful, warm, blue-blue-make-you-happy-sky day in Texas. I was scheduled to work a shift at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, the busiest emergency department in the Army, at a base with always more than fifty thousand soldiers. 

I have been a civilian contract emergency physician at Fort Hood since 2003. I teach Army residents and students and mid-level practitioners emergency medical practice, working alongside the main group of remarkable and able Army Physician Faculty, who do what I do, and are regularly deployed "down range" to support the Army missions in the field. 

I was one of many physicians from the central Texas area who filled in during the hot war in Iraq, and I stayed on. I can't think of a better job than caring for and thanking thousands of soldiers and their families and teaching some of the finest specimens of American youth extant -- people who haven't forgotten the virtues and the concepts of duty, honor, and country, and who make their parents and families proud. Some days I am overcome by the good I see in these students and physicians-in-training. I am one lucky old doc. 

Tragedy struck Fort Hood today, sudden and violent. I write of the best damn mass-casualty drill that could be imagined, made so by extraordinary efforts in the face of a mountain of awful human carnage. Dozens of ambulances from everywhere, helicopters in the sky, soldiers and Army medics and paramedics working the scene with efficiency, competence, and cooperation among area hospitals that allowed remarkable and effective evacuation, triage, use of resources, and superlative resuscitation. I couldn't help but note and admire their performance -- and be happy that they are my colleagues and friends in many cases.

I was concerned after the first wave that we would be overwhelmed, but the regional ambulance and hospital physician help and the dispersal of cases to surrounding hospitals made it possible for our hospital to achieve great success along with those other groups and facilities -- pitching in to care for more than thirty wounded. During the peak, easily more than a hundred physicians, nurses, techs, aids, clerks housekeepers, security, and so many soldiers and civilian workers worked feverishly at our hospital. They made a difference and saved lives.  

Last night I left that emergency department so proud of what I saw, so damn proud of the U.S. Army and the people who kept their cool, worked hard, and saved lives the way their fellow soldiers and their grateful families would hope for them to. Not a slacker to be seen today in the massive effort to save our precious people. Leadership and intelligent decision-making kept the work evenly distributed. It was just the way they like to outline a mass casualty drill in the book -- eye on the ball, manage resources, triage properly, focus on priorities for patient survival. It was good because there were so many there who were battlefield experienced and able. They were ready, and they performed.  So many great specialists came down to help.  Nurses galore. One big patient-care machine, humming along.

I know these people and could name them, put them up for accolades and such, but they would do this if no one was watching -- the true measure of greatness and virtue. My wife Patty, who was at home worrying and didn't know what was happening, was like those other wonderful spouses of soldiers who sacrifice. They worry silently when all hell breaks loose. We shall not forget them, and we grieve with the families who have lost their precious treasure. How horrific.

I wish I could be more eloquent describing what I do, why I love these people so much or why when I left the Department tonight I just had to write this tribute to their effort today.  I can say that what I do is as close as I'll get to working with angels and heroes as a physician. Today was the kind of terrible day that makes us hope there are angels and heroes, the kind of day that makes us pleasantly surprised to be touched by one. Not one cross word today; nothing but tenderness and concern and peddle-to-the-metal effort. Once in a while an announcement would be made to keep the noise down, there were so many people doing so many things at once.

So I had to write tonight about the angels and heroes. I teach one of the ethics lectures for the residents and remind them that they define themselves as virtuous and extraordinary when they volunteer to put on the uniform. I saw the great green-suiters and their support group working today. I had to tell you, so you could know that in some parts of America and in some segments of our people, there is such wonderful goodness. If you had been there, you would have cried for joy and for how lucky we are as a people. I started this essay at 8:30, and now it's 10:00 -- Taps just sounded for Fort Hood. RIP, departed heroes and heroines. And to the living heroes and heroines, thanks for your effort today.  

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is an emergency physician and resident of Brownwood, TX.  His opinions are his own and not attributable to the U.S. Army or the Department of Defense.