Published On: Wed, May 25th, 2022

Trauma surgeon recounts operating on victims in Texas school shooting: “Sadly, we were prepared”


A trauma surgeon in Texas who operated on children wounded in the Uvalde school shooting said that she and her team mobilized quickly once they were notified about the shooting — and knew how to respond due to their experience with the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017, which left 26 dead.

“Sadly, we were prepared for and thought we would get more patients than we did,” Dr. Lillian Liao, the director of pediatric trauma at University Hospital in San Antonio, told CBS News.

Liao said it could take hours to get victims from the scene. But due to measures like a blood transfusion program that started in the South Texas area in 2020, trauma teams were able to begin working on patients more quickly.

“This is the reason why every part of the country needs a strong trauma system — is that coordination of care and getting patients to the right facility in the shortest amount of time possible,” she said.

Liao said the injuries in children from Tuesday’s mass shooting were “high-velocity firearm injuries.” Compared to injuries from handguns, she said these weapons have a more destructive impact on the body.

She also noted the damage can be even more severe for children. “When you talk about a child, their body surface area is much smaller than an adult, and so when a projectile hits them at a high velocity, it will create a bigger destruction,” she said. Internal damage to organs and significant body parts are more likely as a result.

“You can bleed to death in five minutes,” she said.

When asked about how her team was doing, Liao said that they’re trying to stay positive.

“I think our current focus is taking care of the patients that we did receive,” she said, fighting back tears. “And taking care of them in a way that we can help them, first of all, get out of the hospital, but also to be able to live their life to the fullest.”

She said they’re grateful to be able to speak to the families of the injured and tell them their child is still alive and explain what they have planned in terms of care for the next 24 to 48 hours.

“We really feel like we’re fortunate to have such a strong team in the region,” she said. “In the hospital, at University Hospital, to be able to put together an effort that will continue to save lives if and when we have to deal with these mass casualty situations again.”



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