Our area’s hospital staff are Toronto Strong
Emergency responders in North York rallied to help victims of the Yonge-Finch attack by Bethany Browne
At Sunnybrook Hospital, home to the largest trauma centre in the country, the Code Orange on April 23 was different.
On this day, we now know that a man, alleged to be Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, drove a van up onto a Yonge Street sidewalk near Finch Avenue purposefully striking dozens of people, killing 10 and injuring 15.
When the first responders arrived on the scene, the injured were dispatched as quickly as possible to Sunnybrook Hospital and North York General Hospital (NYGH), both nearby.
Staff at both hospitals were about to wade into what would soon be known as the worst mass murder in Canada since Montreal’s École Polytechnique in 1989 when Marc Lépine killed 14 women at the school.
NYGH received four patients from the day’s attack. At Sunnybrook, a Code Orange was in effect, alerting staff to mass casualties. Ten victims arrived at the hospital shortly after. Five were in critical condition, two in serious condition, and one in fair condition. According to a statement issued by Sunnybrook, “Unfortunately, two patients arrived vital signs absent and were pronounced dead upon arrival.”
One of the patient care managers working on Monday afternoon was Karen McCormick from the critical care unit at Sunnybrook.
Reflecting on the largest trauma case that the hospital has ever faced, McCormick said hospital staff had to be quick on their feet. After learning her own family was safe, McCormick quickly switched gears to help in whatever way she could, as fast as she could. She said helping to care for victims of the attack and their families was more than just her job. It felt personal.
“I live close to that area. That is my neighbourhood, and I had a relationship with what had happened,” she said.
At the critical care unit, the staff meets the family of any victim on a regular basis and bears witness to grieving relatives and friends.
“It was particularly difficult because there were so many of them as a result of this senseless act,” said McCormick, whose role was to help create capacity in the hospital for the incoming wave of critical patients. She said Sunnybrook staff has been nothing less than exceptional.
“There’s a tremendous amount of will to get the injured to the right level of care,” McCormick said. “That takes many people in the hospital in order to achieve that and many are needed to make this event go smoothly.”
“That is my neighbourhood. I had a relationship with what had happened.”